Orphans Abandoned, Shunned in Africa’s Ebola Crisis

Orphans Abandoned, Shunned in Africa’s Ebola Crisis

MONROVIA, Liberia (RNS)  Ever since Frank Mulbah’s mother died of Ebola in August, no one will go near him.

“I went to my relatives after my mother died, but they chased me away, even after I told them that I didn’t have Ebola,” said Frank, 12, who tested negative for Ebola at the hospital where his mother died.

As Ebola continues its rampage across Liberia and elsewhere in West Africa, thousands of children are taking a double hit: losing parents to the fatal virus and then being shunned by relatives who fear they will catch the disease.

The United Nations estimates the virus has orphaned nearly 4,000 children across the region, and that number could double in coming weeks. Aid groups, such as Doctors Without Borders, fear the orphans are at risk of starvation and disease.

The children also could pose a risk to others by spreading the disease if they are allowed to roam free without being tested for the virus.

Most children orphaned by Ebola are tested and found to be free of the virus, said Laurence Sailly, a coordinator of an Ebola Treatment Center here run by Doctors Without Borders. But some are not tested.

“These children are supposed to be quarantined for 21 days before they are declared Ebola-free,” she said. “But this does not take place because there’s not enough facilities to cater to these children.”

In Liberia, the hardest hit country, with nearly 1,000 deaths from Ebola as of last week, about half of all mothers in the country are raising their children alone because thousands of men died in a 1999-2003 civil war. So when these mothers catch Ebola and die, their children have nowhere to turn.

Frank, whose father died in the civil war, said he found no one to care for him — neither in northwest Liberia, where he lived before dropping out of school, nor here in the capital, where he traveled in a desperate search for food and shelter from relatives who refused to take him in.

So he scavenges for food. “A day can pass without eating anything,” Frank said. “A few people will listen to you and give you food to eat, but the majority will chase you away.”

Some residents said they are sympathetic to the plight of orphans like Frank, but they have to first look out for the safety of their own families.

Faith Teta, 33, a mother of four, watched as two neighbors died a few months ago from Ebola, leaving behind five children. Their youngest child died a short time later, because everyone in the neighborhood was too scared of being infected to care for the 1-year-old, she said.

The remaining four children now wander Monrovia’s streets, dependent on the kindness of strangers, which is in short supply, Teta said. More often, the children encounter fear, horror and even death threats.

“As parents, we all want to help them,” Teta said, “but people are endangering their own lives when they take in these children, and the lives of our family members.”

Teta blamed the government for being slow to respond to the disease and implement preventive measures to stem it. “The public didn’t have any information about Ebola,” she said. “The government should take responsibility for its failure to stop this and help these kids.”

Sailly said the majority of people dying from the Ebola outbreak are ages 25 to 45, and have children 12 or younger.

“These children are now forced to drop out of school and work (to survive),” Sailly said. “It’s very painful to see them roaming in streets in search for food as their sole caregivers have already died.”

ChildFund, an international charity, started taking care of Ebola orphans this month by keeping them isolated for 21 days.

“The government should support such centers so that they can be able to provide a protective environment for these children,” said Sailly.

Frank hopes his relatives will change their minds, but he isn’t hopeful. He tries not to think about getting home-cooked meals or an education.

“I don’t know when I’ll go back to school,” he said. “Right now I’m just looking for food and a place to live.”

(Sheilia Passewe writes for USA Today.)

Copyright 2014 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be reproduced without written permission.

Gentlewoman: Etiquette for a Lady, From a Gentleman: A Review

Gentlewoman: Etiquette for a Lady, From a Gentleman: A Review

gentlewoman-resize“Gentlewoman” is a non-fiction—not quite self-help, but “self-love” book that takes readers on a journey of uncovering the raw beauty of womanhood with etiquette rules. The author, Enitan O. Bereola II, has set out to inform, educate, and empower women through his research and insight. He wrote this book for women in all stages of life, for young women who might be looking for a husband as well as women who might be struggling through their marriages. “Gentlewoman” is a book for every woman with a story.

In preparation for writing this book, Bereola received help from a wide range of celebrities. In a section titled “Inner Views” (interviews), well-known actors such as Meagan Good, authors such as Hill Harper, artist Michelle Williams (Destiny’s Child), and Pastor Jamal Bryant, shared their perspective on women.

So you might be wondering, “How can a man tell me how to be a woman?” In the introduction, Bereola shares that one of the lessons he learned through one of his childhood experiences was to, “Drown out the noise. Shatter your bias. If the advice is applicable, the source is irrelevant.” Bereola writes,

“Don’t allow your ears to be impervious to my words because I’m a man…If a fellow handed you a million dollars, would you refuse it because it came from a bloke? A million dollars is still a million dollars, no matter who hands it to you. Its value won’t change because a man delivered it.”

But why Gentlewoman? If there are guidelines for what it means to be a gentleman; such as, holding the door open, pulling out a woman’s chair, paying for the first date – then perhaps there are characteristics involved for carrying oneself as a ‘lady.’ In the opening chapter, Bereola says, “Men in a group are commonly referred to as “gentlemen” regardless of their manners. But there’s no equal term for women. God made us equal. Man made us unequal.”

Ultimately, Bereola sees an undeniable beauty in both men and women that society has seemingly brushed under the rug. Through “Gentlewoman,” Bereola attempts to completely remove that rug. Society has depicted us – mainly black women – as women who do not care about our appearance. We are portrayed as women who can’t control our attitudes, are fed up with our baby-daddies or absent fathers, and as those who willingly display ourselves as animals on “reality” television with shows like “Basketball Wives” and “Love and Hip Hop.” Therefore, for some women, there is a burning desire to set the record straight. However, we might need some help in doing so. Bereola has a passion for us. He wants us to thrive and succeed in the world. He sees our struggles and pains, and desires to help with our healing process, on a holistic level.

Society has taken the meaning of true self-worth from woman. She cannot quite see her full potential because it is so foggy with society’s expectations. The first section, “Lost Crown,” implies that woman has forgotten who God made her to be. Through 21 short sections and 7 ‘interludes,’ Bereola dissects every aspect of life that women deal with and how to handle them: relationships, spirituality, health/beauty, finances, marriage, divorce, and etiquette subjects that we don’t spend much time discussing such as tipping, laughing, text, gift-giving, and even restroom and flatulence etiquette. Each chapter plays a part in removing the fog. After uncovering hurt, pain, a heavy heart, an unsure mind, a woman can now take her throne back after reading this book. Any woman who has forgotten her self-worth, or never knew her self-worth in the first place, might now have a chance to do so through Bereola’s writing.

It is clear that Bereola possesses both a sincere passion and compassion for women. “Gentlewoman brings to our attention many issues among women that he believes do have solutions, and the first step is to address the issues. Without forcing this advice on his readers, Bereola simply states, “This book is a suggestion. This book is about honesty. Utilize this literature as a reflective piece to reveal what you want to improve upon and what you want to celebrate.”

So, invest in this piece of literature, take the time to read, and feel like the queen you were created to be. Even if you already view yourself as a queen, be reminded of why you are just that.