Last weeks‘ Friday I stumbled upon the cover of the Standard Times – a local newspaper from Sierra Leone. It read: „Teenage pregnancy ruins Port Loko district“. In the first glimps I thought this was not related to the Ebola outbreak, but then to my surprise I read the following lines:
It is a truism that the outbreak of the Ebola pestilence in the country has not only ravaged the socio-economic fabric, nook and cranny of our settlements, but it has also left a host of the population of the girl child in the rural communities in a fit of child rights abuses and violations and as a result 80% of those children that are holidaying in the Ebola menace are presently been affected with teenage pregnancy whilst a greater % of them are in the family way.
If you read further you will find that almost all girls of the village have been victims of sexual abuse by the inhabitants. This happened partly with the consent of their parents which are in need of help by the perpetrators (farmers, traders, colleagues,…) in order to work on the fields. According to the article, education of the girls is not highly appreciated by their parents who are trying to bring workers inside the family by offering their daughters.
I am honestly shocked by this article. I have been wondering for a long time how big the socioeconomic consequences of the Ebola outbreak would be since over the last months schools and universities are closed down. But it never came to my mind that a virus like Ebola would lead to a rapid increase in child abuse. All kids have to stay at home nowadays. They have no occupation. Parents and relatives have to continue to make a living. So, often the kids are without protection. At least, over the last couple of weeks, there was a educational radio station created.
One thing is very obvious to me. The Ebola outbreak will have severe long term consequences for Liberia and Sierra Leone. I think no one can currently foresee how deeply the countries will be affected in the long-run. My organization has already released a report about the non-medical impacts of the Ebola outbreak which mainly focuses on economical topics like food supply. The large scale of the social impacts can in my opinion currently not be predicted, but should not be forgotten.
This article is a translation of Julia’s original article in German language.