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A Case for the Girl Child

UNICEF reported that one out of four girls is abused sexually in Nigeria before the age of 18 (2015). Apart from sexual abuse, Gender Based violence, Child abuse, Female Genital Mutilation and withdrawal from school are some other issues which have plagued the girl child over the years worldwide.

A lot of interventions in education, health and other areas stated above have been used to improve the livelihood of this group of people and with increased Intervention over the years, statistics have shown that there is improved treatment of women in the society. It is also noteworthy that more women are coming to the fore in society, in politics and other positions that were reserved for only men in times past.

Despite these interventions and successes recorded, there still lies the painful realization that the fight is not over; that there are communities where rape is not considered a crime and Gender Based Violence is accepted, where the girl child is still given out in marriage as a commodity in exchange for money and her future thwarted for life. Some people ask the question ‘’when a woman reports her husband for domestic violence, where will she go?” This stems from the fact that some families misunderstand the concept of marital commitment and interpret it as doom, and some women have learnt wrongly that marriage is the ultimate phase of life, and will do anything to stay there and endure or lose their lives trying. So, even when a man is discovered to be abusing his child sexually, the wife feels bound to him and the child remains in the prison cell called home. It is more surprising when the woman is materially self-sufficient but is ruled by fear of doing the right thing and the expectation of the society.

Sex trade is also on the increase and drug abuse is gaining ground as well among the rich and the poor.

The deciding factor for interventions is mainly poverty as this seems to be the line that determines those who need help and those who do not; but with the happenings of recent times, it is clear that poverty should not be the only determining factor for vulnerability of the girl child.

There are middle class families where child abuse occurs with domestic staff and even parents against children, there are enlightened homes where Gender Based Violence is accepted. The increase in parental absence resulting in child vulnerability in middle class and upper class families is alarming.

The girl child has received a lot of intervention over the years, but the fight is still on and we hope that one day the war will be won.

Written by Omonefe O. Eruotor

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HIV/AIDS AN OVERVIEW

HIV was discovered in 1984 and since then, millions of people have died from AIDS. According to the World Health Organization (2015), over 36 million people are living with the virus worldwide and several interventions have been put in place to ensure that those infected with the virus can lead normal lives.

In Nigeria, a lot of indigenous and international organizations work to ensure prevention, treatment and management services are available in both the urban and rural areas. These include services to ensure the use of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) – a combination of drugs to ensure that the growth of the virus is prevented, slowing its progression, thereby slowing the disease. Other interventions include the formation of support groups to help patients share challenges and a lot of positive ideas.

Another wonderful intervention is the Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme which ensures that mothers do not transmit the virus to their children during pregnancy, childbirth and afterwards; thereby preserving future generations. This helps decrease morbidity and mortality due to HIV in infants.

A huge challenge is stigmatization, which makes people avoid those infected with the virus for fear of contracting same. Another is non-adherence to treatment. Sometimes patients get frustrated and as a result of inadequate funds and access to treatment centers, a lot of them give up; some others get into denial or bouts of hopelessness and stop taking their medication. Ignorance also poses a serious threat because people who lack information are prone to believe anything they are told, including the misconception that everyone with HIV/AIDS must die.

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HIFASS offical carrying out testing during the outreach in Jahi on World AIDS Day 2016

The 1st of December is a day set aside globally to remember those who have passed, show support for those living with HIV/AIDS, and create awareness on HIV prevention and for most civil societies, it serves as a way to recommitting to ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat.  A lot of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)and government establishments are holding rallies to support people living with HIV/AIDS and also to enlighten the general public on HIV prevention. They are also encouraging people to stop stigmatization and suggesting ways through which support can be given to people living with HIV/AIDS.

This year with theme “Hands Up for HIV Prevention,” HIFASS conducted a one day community outreach in the Jahi community (Kado Kuchi) AMAC, FCT with Health Talks, HIV Testing, and Distribution of Condoms and IEC materials. Also the HIFASS-LOPIN 3 in  conjunction with other implementing organizations like FHI 360, Mediatrix, Lafarge, Pathfinder and Heartland Alliance organised a long walk creating awareness on HIV  as well as HIV Testing in Calabar, Cross river state.

Written by: Omonefe Oisedebamen Eruotor

References- Worldaidsday.org, WHO data site(http://apps.who.int/gho/data/view.main.22100WHO), https://www.westerncape.gov.za/service/prevention-mother-child-transmission-pmtct, http://www.emtct-iatt.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Nigeria_National-PMTCT-Guidelines_2010.pdf, http://www.thebody.com/content/art6114.html

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MARIA’S TALE OF HOPE

Maria, a 36 year old Person Living Positive (PLP) widow residing in Adim Community in Biase Local Government Area of Cross River state, lost her husband with whom she had three kids and got involved with another man who promised to marry her. She had a child for the latter but he eloped, leaving her to cater for all the kids alone. With no source of income, aside the occasional N500-700 she got for weeding farmlands and four hungry mouths to feed; she began yielding to men who were interested in satisfying their sexual appetites with her in the community. Although farming and trading are the major occupations there; traditionally, women are not allowed to hold titles and are regarded as second class citizens who cannot own lands but can lease them for farming. The poverty rate is so high that like Maria, very high risk sexual activities take place among the girls, women and men especially among the widows who are regarded as free women. When her situation became unbearable, Maria had to release her fourteen year old daughter to a distant relative in Abuja for care which she cannot monitor from her location.

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded project – Local Orphans and Vulnerable Children Partners in Nigeria- Region 3 (LOPIN3), with as the lead partner enrolled Maria’s household in 2015. During the intervention, she received HIV Testing and Counseling services where she was discovered to be positive and referred to the nearest Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) for CD four count and further treatment. She also received training on the importance of proper healthcare like the need to sleep under insecticide treated nets, in nutrition, education, effective parenting skills, gender norms and financial literacy through the Catholic Archdiocesan Action Committee on AIDS (CAACA), a HIFASS-LOPIN 3 Community Based Organisation (CBO).

Maria by her shop

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As one of the project beneficiaries of seed grants in her community, she also received N30, 000 with which she started table trade. After about two months, Maria has this to say “Men no longer take advantage of me since I started my business, as I no longer depend on any one to provide for my family’s needs”. She now sells provisions daily and farm produce on market days.

This empowerment has boosted her self-esteem as she is able to feed, clothe, pay medical bills for and support the education of her children. In addition, along with other empowered caregivers, she was trained on Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC), they were taught to save and borrow money amongst themselves to improve their businesses.

CAACA and the HIFASS-LOPIN 3 Technical Point Person will continue to monitor and mentor Maria to see that her business keeps growing. The Community OVC Improvement Team (COIT) and Community Volunteers (CVs) are also on ground to offer necessary support to Maria and all empowered households in the community.

Disclaimer: This success story was made possible by the kind support from the American people delivered through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Health Initiatives for Safety and Stability in Africa (HIFASS) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of USAID or the U.S. Government.

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NIGERIA LOCAL RESOURCE MOBILIZATION SUCCESS

In line with the principles of change management which make it clear that local support is necessary for sustainable development, Local Orphans and Vulnerable Children Partners in Nigeria – Region 3 (LOPIN 3) gave technical assistance to eleven Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), currently sub-granted by the project, which is funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); to apply for the MTN Foundation’s call for proposals in Cross River and Ebonyi States.

LOPIN 3 Program staff worked tirelessly to ensure their assigned CSOs completed the application process correctly and before the deadline. MTN Foundation contacted successful organizations for site inspection and their proposed sites were visited by the MTN inspection officers who saw needs that they could meet, to support the alleviation of the plight of orphans and vulnerable children in the respective states. Four out of the eleven CSOs currently sub-granted by LOPIN 3 were successful.

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Donated Items at Amankwo/Amanbolobo Orphanage, Ebonyi.

Government Secondary school, Oban (suggested by Catholic Archdiocesan Action Committee on AIDS); Buda Comprehensive Secondary School, Kakwagom (suggested by Kejie Health Foundation) and Model Primary School, Ohong (suggested by Oten-Ita Foundation), all in Cross River State, received 100 double-seater desk-chairs for students as well as 10 teacher tables and chairs. In Ebonyi state, Amankwo/Amanbolobo Orphanage Home (suggested by Destiny Daughters of Nigeria), received 1 double door fridge, 15 3×6 mattresses, 15 pillows, 4 standing fans, 8 cartons of 900 grams Milo, 8 cartons of sugar, 8 cartons of 900g Peak Powdered Milk, 2 tins of cholesterol-free vegetable oil (18kg), 3 bags of rice (50kg), 5 bags of 10kg Semovita, 8 cartons of Ariel detergent (12 units/carton), 8 cartons of laundry bar soap (B29), 8 cartons of Dettol soap (72 units/ carton), 8 cartons of Dettol disinfectant (750ml) and 8 mosquito nets.

These donations which were received through a process initiated by simple on-line applications, have helped improve educational structures and living conditions of children who are currently enrolled in the LOPIN 3 project, and have proven that there is hope for local support in our quest for sustainability.

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NIGERIA ADHERENCE INTERVENTION SUCCESS

At the tender age of 8, William (fictitious) was believed to have begun the journey to an early grave. He was no longer taken to the health care facility which is about three hours away – same facility where his parents who lost the battle against the HIV/AIDS virus registered the family to avoid stigmatization. His nutrition was poor; his frail grandma had no means of income to cater for her 5 grandchildren, all under age ten who live with her in a non-ventilated single room with thatched roof. She said she was waiting patiently for William’s death so she could allot a portion of the family compound to be dug for his burial, beside the graves of other family members who died of HIV/AIDS.
Timely intervention was provided by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded project – Local Orphans and Vulnerable Children Partners in Nigeria- Region 3 (LOPIN3), with Health Initiatives for Safety and Stability in Africa (HIFASS) as the lead partner. LOPIN3 ensured that this family did not have reason to mourn a young child, through a series of interventions. The project provided adequate psycho-social support to the family and ensured William resumed taking medication. Tests revealed that he also had tuberculosis, so treatment was initiated. He was transferred to a health facility in Calabar by Offiong Enyi, a community volunteer, and was kept for some days for proper observation and care before returning home.

Disclaimer: This success story was made possible by the kind support from the American people delivered through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Health Initiatives for Safety and Stability in Africa (HIFASS) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of USAID or the U.S. Government.

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MTN Foundation donates Furniture to Model Primary School Ohong, Obudu Cross River State

Since 2014, HIFASS has been funded by USAID to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS on Orphans and Vulnerable Children in area 3- Cross River and Ebonyi States (LOPIN3). The consortium for implementing the CA is made up of HIFASS as the lead, Calabar Arch-Diocesan Action Committee on AIDS (CAACA), Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki Succour and Development Services Initiative (SUCCDEV) and People-to-People Health Foundation in Nigeria (PPHFN).

One of the strategic objectives of HIFASS LOPIN 3 project is to provide organizational capacity strengthening and technical assistance to civil society organization (CSOs).  Oten Ita foundation a CSO under the HIFASS LOPIN 3 was given adequate assistance by HIFASS LOPIN3 technical point person (TPP) to be able to successful respond to the MTN foundation proposal in October 2015.

Oten-Ita Foundation applied and their nominated primary school was selected to benefit from the MTN foundation ‘What Can We Do Together’ initiative. The initiative will support 200 communities to improve the quality of lives of vulnerable children across 200 LGAs in Nigeria.

On Wednesday March 16, 2016. 100 set of desks and chairs where handed over to Model primary school, Ohong for its pupils and 10 set of tables and chairs for the teachers. The community leaders of Uwhobikpam, Obudu Cross River State and the school received MTN foundation team with joy.

Presenting the items at Model primary school in Ohong, The Regional Technical Manager, MTN foundation, Theophilus Nnabugwu encouraged the Headmaster and his team to be committed to harnessing other available resources towards educational development.

The Head Master, Mr Ishul Innocent Agorge thanked MTN team for the kind gesture and great support to the community.

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MTN Donates Desks to Primary School In Oban, Cross River State

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Group photograph with MTN, CACCA,HIFASS and community members

Mobile telecommunication company, MTN foundation donated 100 (2) Seater desks and 10 Teachers Table and Chairs at  Government Secondary School  in Oban, Akamkpa LGA Cross River State on  Monday 14th March, 2016.

The donation of school desks and chairs to the school by MTN was as a result of the Catholic Archdiocesan Action Committee on AIDS (CAACA) Calabar responding to a call for proposal by MTN to nominate a school with Orphans and Vulnerable Children to be furnished with school equipment as part of the ‘What Can We Do Together’ initiative.

The ‘What Can We Do Together’ initiative, which was launched in September 2015 during the 10th anniversary celebration of the MTN Nigeria Foundation, aimed at giving every Nigerian the opportunity to make a difference in their local communities. Under the initiative 200 projects in 200 communities with focus on transformers, boreholes, school furniture and donation to orphanages are being implemented across Nigeria.

Also, in attendance at the ceremony were Mr Tuedon Uweja, MD HIFASS, Sis Cecelia Chukwu, ED SUCCDEV and other staff of NGOs and CSOs.

The nominator of the Secondary School, Barr. William Itorok expressed his delight and gratitude

“I wish to thank MTN Foundation for responding swiftly to our request to “Let Do It Together” in Oban Community where we have a high concentration of our Orphans and Vulnerable Children, saturated in our LOPIN3 Project in Cross River State. The LOPIN3 project is a five-year initiative to help children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS and their families in the states of Cross River and Ebonyi. It is a consortium that comprises HIFASS, Calabar Arch-Diocesan Action Committee on AIDS (CAACA), Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki, Succor and Development Services Initiative (SUCCDEV) and People-to-People Health Foundation in Nigeria (PPHFN) with HIFASS as the lead. The program seeks to better organize and coordinate existing structures and systems that offer care and services to orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) by providing hands-on technical assistance, this is why we felt we can do it together to assist the school give better education to these children.”

Also speaking at the ceremony was Rev. Fr. E. Bekomson, ED CAACA. He stated that ”MTN has been very wonderful, it took barely two months between writing and assessment of site and supply, may God bless you! We are thankful for LOPIN3 Regional Office and HIFASS our Prime for the constant support to CAACA. We wish MTN well and may God lead you safely back home.”

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