I was born and raised in Sierra Leone. Though we grew up in the best of times, things were still tough. Parents had to scrape to make ends meet. Parents had to go without food to ensure their children had some. Those were the best of times in Sierra Leone, before the horrible war, before the displaced camps, before the great diaspora migration.
Then the war came in 1991, things fell apart in Sierra Leone and anarchy was set loose upon our country. Things never became the same again. No, never.
When the war was over, the devastation in our rural localities was visible. The grief was palpable, the desolation ubiquitous. The hopelessness was omnipresent.
Our farms lay fallow, schools closed, our young amputated, our hopes displaced. Our family houses piles of rubble. Our family heirlooms piles of ash. Yet through all this we survived, fractured but not totally broken.
We had plans. Yes we had dream. We had plans to be scientists, economists, lawyers, professors. We all wanted to become somebody. We all wanted to be that man who was welcomed in his village with drumming, for whom the goat was killed. We wanted to marry our childhood sweet hearts, but alas, it was not to be.
We were chased from our homes by men devoted to revolutions they could not comprehend. Like a flock without a shepherd, we were scattered across the globe like unwanted sheep, living for years in displaced and refugee camps, our children growing up without education, never knowing the dignity of growing in settled homes, destined to lives of pettiness, crime, ignorance and political thuggery.
Then came this dreaded Ebola, like an evil clown in a coffin, an unwelcome stranger who has overstayed his welcome, the guest from hell who just won't go away.
Ebola has brought fear, suspicion, loathing and death. Ebola has come to kill the parents and leave the children orphaned.
What will happen to this orphaned generation? Without parents who will ensure that they are fed?Who will even know that they are hungry. Who will care for them? Who will send them to school?
When all the news is old and stale, when Ban Ki Moon is old and gray, when Ernest Koroma would be but a name, when CNN and BBC would have moved on to vover other troubles, where would these children be?
This morning I woke up, thinking about the Ebola orphans in Sierra Leone. I know my country, I know my people. There are no social safety nets for the young in Sierra Leone. The only safety nets we had growing up were our parents. To grow up without parents in Sierra Leone is a life no Sierra Leonean even wants to imagine. Even when our parents were there, life was a struggle. Those were the days when people's salaries could feed their families.
Today workers in Sierra Leone are among the poorest on earth, receiving very little for the work they do, that is if they get paid at all. Families with work today can't even feed their children. So what will happen to children who don't even have breadwinners? Who will think of think about the orphans when the world would have forgotten them?
Yesterday we heard that $5000.00 was going to be provided for families of health care workers in Sierra Leone. What about families of the common person struck by Ebola, who were no health care workers? Who will feed the children, who will send them to school? Is this another lost generation?
What are we going to do as a nation to ensure that these Ebola orphans do not go through life destined for poverty and prison?
Today I woke up, worried about the Ebola orphans of Sierra Leone, wondering how I can help, in my own little way. I am truly sad this morning, thinking about the Ebola orphans of West Africa, of Sierra Leone.