At least 3,700 children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone who have lost one or both parents to Ebola this year face being shunned, the UN has said.
Carers were urgently needed for these orphans, Unicef said.
A basic human reaction like comforting a sick child has been turned “into a potential death sentence”, it added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says more than 3,000 people have died of Ebola in West Africa – the world’s most deadly outbreak of the virus.
The figure on the number of Ebola orphans follows a two-week assessment mission by the UN children’s agency to the three countries worst-affected by the outbreak. An earlier version of this story said that 4,900 children had lost parents but the correct figure is 3,700.
It found that children as young as three or four years old were being orphaned by the disease.
Children were discovered alone in the hospitals where their parents had died, or back in their communities where, if they were lucky, they were being fed by neighbours – but all other contact with them was being avoided.
Liberia’s chief medical doctor Bernice Dahn tells the BBC about the challenges of her self-imposed 21-day quarantine, after one of her assistants died from the deadly Ebola virus:
“It is the right thing to do and to send a strong message to the Liberian people. If we were just disciplined enough and everybody was obeying rules, we wouldn’t be here today.
I’m sleeping in a room all by myself – my husband has moved into the guestroom. At home I use my own utensils, I disinfect them myself so others don’t get infected.
Physically I am fine, mentally like any other human being [there is] the fear of the unknown.
My husband… my children have been supportive. The difficulty is the way we used to sit down in the evening, everyone watched TV together laughing and joking. These days they are in their rooms to watch their own TV and I’m in my room to watch mine.
I have my grandson here who I can’t hold. He will walk to me and I will tell him: ‘Go back to your mummy.'”