The Oklahoman: Jim Inhofe: A call to support those orphaned by Ebola in West Africa

By:  Sen. Jim Inhofe
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It’s been six months since the United States has seen a confirmed case of Ebola within our borders. In West Africa, the reported number of cases has not peaked since October. As the fear and concern displayed in Western media has become more subdued, the people of West Africa continue to need our support.

The most vulnerable victims of the largest Ebola outbreak in history are the young people who have been left orphaned. UNICEF estimates that 11,000 children have lost one or both parents to Ebola, and that number will continue to grow until the disease is better contained. UNICEF also has said that some children have been rejected by their surviving family members due to the stigma of the disease. This serves as a reminder that the impacts of Ebola will last for many decades and will require long-term commitment in fighting for the next generation of West Africans.

On Saturday, Jerome and Shanna Crawford of Edmond will move their family of eight to Sierra Leone where the local government has asked them to open two orphanages for children who lost their family to Ebola.

I learned about the Crawfords’ story in The Oklahoman, and out of a shared passion for Africa and for children in need of forever families, we were able to speak before their departure. The family told me they are moving out of necessity and not out of preparedness.

Sierra Leone’s government has already dropped off 20 children at the Crawfords’ facility, and told them to expect to have 83 children by next week.

While the financial means haven’t fully come together, the Crawfords are seizing on the favor of the Sierra Leone government and responding to their faith conviction to care for those in need.

As founders of the Komeo International Ministries, the Crawfords have long been involved in West Africa and operate another orphanage in the region that is home to 139 children, of which 52 are receiving a local college education. This facility is specifically for children who were left without families as a result of the Sierra Leone civil war or have been victims of sex trafficking.

Now more than ever, the Crawfords’ assistance and their hearts are in high demand. On Monday, they will wake up to a new reality filled with many more mouths to feed, bodies to clothe and minds to teach, in order to ensure these children have a chance at a brighter future.

This week, I introduced a resolution in the Senate that raises awareness of those orphaned by Ebola and calls Americans to support the goals and work of those, like the Crawfords, who are addressing the developing Ebola orphan crisis.

I hope my fellow Oklahomans will join me, and the Crawford family, in recognizing that these children deserve our attention, thoughts, prayers and assistance.

Inhofe, R-Tulsa, is Oklahoma’s senior U.S. senator.