More than one third of the reported Ebola cases in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo are children.
The United Nations children’s announced the statistics on Tuesday, adding that one in ten children who have contracted Ebola is under five years old.
The agency also warned that children who contract the virus are at higher risk of dying from the disease than adults.
“We are deeply concerned by the growing number of children confirmed to have contracted Ebola,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier.
Poirier visited Beni city in the north eastern region of the DR Congo, one of the current epicentres of the Ebola outbreak. While there, she met health officials fighting the Ebola outbreak.
“The earlier children infected with Ebola receive treatment in a specialized health facility, the greater their chances of survival. Community mobilization and public awareness activities are also crucial to ensuring early detection and quick referral of suspected cases to Ebola treatment centres,” she said.
UNICEF called for concerted efforts to raise awareness of prevention methods and to promote access to treatment which dramatically improves survival rates.
“Children are suffering a lot because of this epidemic – both those who have lost parents or caregivers as well as those who have been infected themselves,” Poirier said. “That’s why it’s imperative that children are put at the heart of the Ebola response.”