Those that do survive, or are lucky enough to have escaped infection, meet a shadowy future. According to data from UNICEF, upwards of 3,700 children have lost one or both parents to Ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia thus far. Miles, who met with four different groups of orphans in Liberia on her visit, suspects the number is much higher. “I think there are thousands we don’t even know about,” she says.
The kids Miles met had either been released from the hospital after surviving Ebola, or had made it through the 21-day incubation period. Nearly all of them were newly homeless.
The first group she encountered was three sisters, aged 18, 7, 6, and their 3-year-old brother. With a father lost to the country’s bitter civil war, the girls’ mother had been left to care for them alone. When the mother came down with Ebola in the house, their calls for ambulances were not returned until four days later. By then, she was nearly dead. After passing that evening, her body reportedly remained in the house for three days before burial teams removed it. When they did, the kids were left helpless. “They took the body away, boarded the house, and burned everything, all of their possessions,” says Miles.