I’m an Ebola Child Protection Advisor

My name is Amy, and I’m in Liberia responding to the Ebola crisis – the deadliest outbreak in history. It’s perhaps the most challenging assignment of my Save the Children career.

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Amy Richmond, Child Protection Advisor

Liberia

October 1, 2014

 

My name is Amy, and I’m in Liberia responding to the Ebola crisis – the deadliest outbreak in history. It’s perhaps the most challenging assignment of my Save the Children career.

Waking up to Ebola
Waking up in my room, this Ebola assignment feels almost routine – like any of the dozens of emergency assignments I’ve been on for Save the Children. My surroundings are strangely familiar. A simple bed, the glowing red alarm clock circa 1982 and heavily screened windows through which stifling hot air wafts, even in the early morning. But once I step outside, I realize this is an assignment like no other. First, I’m overwhelmed by the sharp smell of the chlorine-solution used as a disinfectant here, then by the otherworldly sight of workers fully outfitted in infection control suits, as well as the often graphic Ebola prevention signs. I take a deep breath. Now, the real work begins. 

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In addition to helping kids stay healthy and safe, Save the Children is also proving emergency supplies and nutritious food in the hardest hit areas.

The tragic discovery of little David
The children we’re helping here are facing overwhelming tragedy. Perhaps the most tragic is the story of an 8-year-old boy. I’ll call him David – a common name in Liberia.

On a routine area survey, where relief workers go house-to-house searching for people who may have had contact with the Ebola virus, aid workers came across David. He was in his home – about the size of a garden shed, though not as well built – surrounded by the dead bodies of his family.

I shudder to think what David went through being there when his family died from the painful sickness caused by the Ebola virus. No child should go through that horror. Miraculously, he survived. It’s our job to ensure he can overcome this tragedy and find a safe place for him to grow up.

Why I do what I do
I've been a Child Protection Advisor for over a decade now. I've seen the worst of what the world has wrought on our children – deadly conflict in Syria and Iraq, famine-like conditions in East Africa, devastating hurricanes on America’s coastline, terrible typhoons in the Philippines. And through it all, – children have paid the heaviest toll. And that’s why I do what I do.

 

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Little children think the health workers look like aliens from outer space in their protective gear. The suits might look scary, but they help protect the dedicated workers from the outbreak.

Little ones are always the most vulnerable in crisis – and Ebola is no exception. It’s our job to protect them. My colleagues and I keep kids safe from harm, trafficking and unspeakable abuse. We help children overcome horrific, traumatic experiences. We also reunite children with family members if they get lost or become orphaned. Children need all of this help, and more, here in the midst of the Ebola crisis.

Taking necessary precautions
I know I can’t take care of children, if I don’t take care of myself. And Save the Children has very strict protocols to ensure my good health and safety. Everywhere I go, I use hand-sanitizer, wash with chlorine solution and step through a bleach bath or am hosed with a foot shower. I take medicines, wear infection control gloves and have protective nets to keep other diseases at bay, knowing there’s little access to health care here. And I’m exceedingly careful about what I eat and drink. Although my pants are all bleach-stained, and my hands are raw from the chlorine, I know I’m doing everything I can to stay well, so I can do my job – protecting children.

Making a difference for kids
We work long, grueling days, but at the same time, we’re energized by knowing we’re making a difference for vulnerable children in this crisis. The days are full and varied. In the morning, I read the latest briefings and meet with our Child Protection team on our response work for the day, which may include caring for orphaned or unaccompanied children like David. In the evenings, we work on documents to secure much needed funds this essential Ebola crisis response.

Finally, I collapse on my bed in the oddly comforting red glow of the alarm clock. Ready to sleep for a few hours – and do it all again tomorrow.

To learn more about our response to the Ebola outbreak, click here