Liberia: Teen Single Mothers in Bong Struggling to Fend for Children during COVID-19 Lockdown
Jorquelleh District, Bong County – Rose Flomo went from making LD$ 5,000 a month to no income at all, since the lockdown began two months ago. The 19-year-old single mother of a set of male twins now survives on food handouts from a community church.
Report by Selma Lomax, [email protected]
“Right now, the biggest worry for me and my children is hunger,” she says. “If we go out, we risk contracting coronavirus. If we stay home, hunger will kill us. This is worse than a war.”
Bong County reported its first COVID-19 case last week and has since recorded over four cases, with three deaths reported. Income generating activities have been disrupted by restrictions on movement and other preventive measures.
Vulnerable communities, including vulnerable people whose incomes were already low, are some of the worst hit by the economic downturn.
Flomo is not alone. Doris Dolo, 18, lives in a dilapidated grass-thatched hut.
When she met her partner few months ago, Dolo thought she had found someone with whom they would spend the rest of their lives together. She was also ready to become a mother and start a family she had always dreamt of.
She says the start of their relationship was filled with joy and everything worked out perfectly. She says her boyfriend then was a good man who celebrated life’s little milestone.
Dolo, with teary eyes says, her boyfriend left and has never returned.
Striving to survive
Because of the rejection she suffered from her husband and in-laws, Dolo decided to do whatever it took to fend for her son.
Juggling a number of jobs, Dolo resorted to washing clothes for money.
However, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people are at home doing their own laundry. Dolo says the whole support system she had put in place to keep her and her child going has completely fallen apart.
“I was not earning much, but I provided basic needs for my children. This is no more. Only God knows how we shall survive,” she laments.
In caring for her child, everything has gone from bad to worse for Dolo. Worried about her son, Dolo says she survives on the mercy of friends and neighbors.
“When one of my neighbors cook before I do, they give me food,” she says. At the moment, Dolo’s prayer is that her child does not fall sick because she cannot afford hospital bills.
The going gets tough
The low paying jobs which kept many women working and earning are no more and single mothers like Dolo, cannot afford to have three meals a day. For Dolo, this means one meal a day, taken at 6pm.
Pauline Howard, 19, is another single mother of one. Unlike Dolo, Howard is surviving from her vegetable stall that stands a few meters off the road in Jenepleta Town, Jorquelleh District.
Before the lockdown, Dolo could sustain her child. Every day, with income from her stall, she had hopes to provide basic needs for her child, she say.
However, that is no more because from the time public means of transport were grounded, she decided to turn her stall into her other home.
“From my place of work to my home in Jenepleta, the distance is about an hour. I could not walk every single day to work. Also staying at home meant starving,” she expresses.
Howard had no option but to make tough decisions. She decided to leave her young son into the hands of her elder brother.
Like any mother, Howard would love to be near her child to take care of him. However, she has no choice, but to spend cold nights with a leaky roof over her head in order to raise money to send back home for her son’s food.
Her only prayer is that her child does not fall sick during this time and in her absence. She says: “Ever since the lockdown was announced, I have gone back home only once. I only make phone calls to her elder brother who updates me on their wellbeing.”
The head of the Delta Human Rights Foundation Incorporated, Jesse Cole, says children with vulnerable single mothers face a serious threat to their right to education because of poverty, difficulty in obtaining food and shelter.
“They are most likely to experience property grabbing by families and communities,” he says.
Cole calls upon local leaders of Bong County to ensure they monitor the situation of these children.
“They should ensure that appropriate livelihood social support mechanisms are in place to protect vulnerable children and link them to service providers who can support them,” he adds.