Berlinda Clark arrived by ambulance at Redemption Hospital, a hellish holding center for the sick and the dead. Also in the back of the vehicle was the corpse of her mother, who died before the child’s eyes on the trip over.
As luck would have it, Katie Meyler was outside Redemption that September day as well. Meyler, a New Jersey native who runs a nonprofit group in the slums here, brought the 4-year-old girl to live in the clean, newly renovated guest house her organization owns — a reversal of fortune akin to hitting the lottery in a place where the Ebola virus is out of control.
But then Meyler plucked another child, Miatta Urey, from a nearby home full of people who were sick with the Ebola infection and brought her to the guest house as well. Miatta soon began showing symptoms of infection and became seriously ill, posing yet another threat of exposure to Berlinda.
Meyler’s actions may have been imprudent, but they also demonstrate how few choices are available to those trying to care for the children of the Ebola epidemic.
In a country still recovering from 14 years of civil war, Ebola is posing a new threat to children, with challenges never seen here before. Some children have been forced to leave homes where relatives are infected, cleaving families into the sick and the well. Others face stigma if parents or siblings contract the disease, or they are shunned if they get it themselves and are fortunate enough to survive. And Liberia has a new wave of orphans, like the one caused by the war.