Fatou Bangoura looks distraught as she sits quietly alone at home in Coyah, a town in western Guinea.
The 17-year-old lost her parents in the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in 2013. She and three of her younger siblings were taken in by a benevolent family.
“Due to Ebola, we are orphans,” Bangoura says.
She and three of her younger siblings were initially taken in by a benevolent family. But things have since changed.
“Our host families are beginning to show tiredness taking our burdens,” Bangoura told DW.
The obligation of supporting two of her brothers and a sister without financial support overwhelms her. “Even to have food it is difficult for us. Due to Ebola, we have lost our education, presently we are not going to school.”
Bangoura says the government had promised to care for those orphaned in the outbreak. “Until now, they haven’t done anything. So, life is hard for us. … We are asking for assistance,” she told DW.
No education and menial jobs
The Bangouras are not alone. More than 6,000 children lost parents in the outbreak in Guinea.
Mariama Sylla who lives near Coyah was orphaned at the age of six. She says she has had to take up menial jobs to sustain herself and her siblings.
“I lost my parents when I was six years old and by then I was in grade one. Neither I nor my brothers are going to school. We are doing odd jobs for our daily survival,” Sylla told DW.
“I am the eldest of three now. I am their mother and father. We have totally been abandoned by the government and the international community.”
She believes that the funds that were allocated to orphans like herself “were swindled by officials.”
Many of those who were orphaned in Guinea share that view..
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were at the epicenter of the West African Ebola outbreak between 2013 and 2016, the deadliest on record.
The first case was reported in a small village in Guinea in December 2013 and by the time the outbreak was contained, 2,000 lives were lost in the country.
Over 1,000 patients recovered, but according to the National Network of Ebola Survivors in Guinea, many later died due to a lack of follow-up treatment.
‘Care efforts were short-lived’
During the outbreak, the government had pledged support for orphans.
“These orphans were abandoned just six months after the end of the pandemic,” says Dr. Amadou Oury Diallo, the chairman of the National Network of Ebola Survivors.
“At the beginning, there were institutions and NGOs that said they would take care of the orphans. But, unfortunately, the care efforts were short lived.”
Most of the funds allocated to victims and orphans were diverted by government officials, Diallo told DW.
Government officials then blamed their inability to support orphans on lack of funding from donors.
“Officials say there is no funding, and the institutions are no longer financing. The host families were asked to continue on their own,” Diallo says. “So, the orphans have been abandoned. I am talking about 6,220 orphans.”
Many of the orphans face stigma and discrimination, both from their relatives and the public. Diallo says some have even taken their own lives, while others are still hopeful that their hardships will end.