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Economic empowerment brings about a complete turnaround for vulnerable families

Nkechinyere lost her shop where she sold food items and fairly used bags to a fire outbreak in Port-Harcourt. In spite of the maternal drive to be strong for her children, she had to move to her husband’s village in Anambra State when her health deteriorated and she was too weak to meet basic needs, she became dependent.

Her husband left her and his family, was no longer as supportive as he was in providing for her and the children. When the ill-treatment became unbearable, she relocated to her home town, Owutu, a local community in Afikpo South LGA of Ebonyi state, to live with her own family, a community where they are predominantly peasant farmers. This was where her children were enrolled, based on vulnerability, into the PEPFAR funded HIFASS-LOPIN 3 project, through WOCHAD, a Community Based Organization, working in the area.  At the time, she became very thin, weak and unable to move around. Her oldest daughter Onyechinyere was saddled with the burden of fending for the family. Nkechinyere tested positive for HIV along with two of her children and they were referred for treatment.

Nkechi did not need hand-outs which would satisfy her temporarily, she needed a source of income that would take her back to a state of independence. She also needed a support system to pull her through her trying time. HIFASS-LOPIN 3 provided a support system by introducing her to the Caregivers’ forum where they discuss issues surrounding health, nutrition, parenting, education and other issues that would benefit them; then gave her a seed grant to start a trade. Her daughter, Onyechinyere was introduced to the Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) club where she learnt to set goals, value and protect herself, the use the word ‘No’. She was trained in hairdressing and received materials to start up her own business – hair dryer, hair wash basin, generator and other items needed for a hair salon.

Nkechinyere’s Caregivers’ forum started a SILC (Savings and Internal Lending Community) group after they all received Financial Literacy training. In the group, they are able to save money regularly and share out at specific times. They also give out loans among themselves from the purse to improve their businesses.

With her seed grant Nkechinyere began selling tomatoes and pepper. Initially, she sold from a sheet spread on the ground, but now has a shed in the market. She has also added pumpkin leaves and Okro to her merchandise. Her daughter, Onyechinyere, went into partnership with someone to get a shop where she makes hair and fixes hair extensions. She also participates in peer education through AGYW (Adolescent Girls and Young Women) meetings and has learnt to set life goals, protect herself and say ‘No’. Nkechinyere and the children who are reactive are all adhering to treatment.

In her words, Nkechinyere is grateful “… for saving my life and entire household from death, empowering me to be able to carter for my children through the LOPIN-3 program. I will encourage other positive caregivers to join the SILC group and to face their positive status with a positive attitude”.  Her daughter Onyechinyere is grateful to the American people for “remembering Nigerian young girls”.

This is one less vulnerable household in the community as income from the mother is supplemented by that from the daughter. All the children, apart from Onyechinyere who is now a hairdresser, are in school and are feeding regularly. This makes them less likely to participate in risky behavior, more hopeful for a better future and eager to help others. Nkechinyere says “I will encourage other positive caregivers to join the SILC group and to face their positive status with a positive attitude”.

 

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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Vulnerability to Stability

Stella Ukah is a widow saddled with the responsibility of caring for her 3 children. She tried farming but was still unable to meet basic needs, only one of her children was enrolled in school because of the required demands which she could not meet.

HIFASS-LOPIN 3 (Health Initiatives for Safety and Stability in Africa – Local OVC Partners in Nigeria Region 3) project funded by PEPFAR through USAID enrolled Stella’s household based on their level of vulnerability through Destiny Daughters Initiative of Nigeria, a Community Based Organization, and placed her in a Caregivers group where issues affecting vulnerable households are discussed. She received training in nutrition, education, and other areas; but most importantly was in a group where people who were striving to get out of vulnerability, like her, met. There, she was encouraged to begin a business and started making and selling Akara, a local staple. She was selling regularly but did not have enough funds to buy in bulk. Her customers were dissatisfied because she could not meet the growing demand. Stella needed reassurance that everything could turn out right and that was exactly what she got from the Caregivers’ Forum.

After they were trained in Financial literacy, her Caregivers forum formed a SILC (Savings and Internal Lending Community) group where they save money regularly and share at stipulated times. They also give out loans among themselves for important activities. She received a seed grant from the project with which she boosted her business enabling her produce more Akara balls, sufficient for her customers.  At the moment she sells pap, bread, milk, milo and other items along with Akara so people have options of accompaniments with their Akara.

She is glad to say she now travels all the way to Enugu, a neighboring state, to buy Beans and Corn, the grains needed for her trade, in bags. She also saves money with her SILC group and on her own. All her children are enrolled in school and she is happy with her current state, hoping to keep improving with time. She says in pidgin “the time when then support me to do the akara, I dey help my children dey help myself. The last time, if you see me you no go remember me.” This means that with the support she received, she can now take care of herself and her children, adding that she looks different from how she did some time back.

 

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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From Support Group to Cooperative Society: The Otu Oganiru SILC Group

Vulnerability in most rural communities is like drowning in a pool with no life guard in place. This is because in general, rural communities are relatively poor with families striving to care for their own, so supporting someone else is quite a task, except with support from wealthy families which is often not widespread.

One of the components of the PEPFAR funded HIFASS-LOPIN 3 project intervention is encouraging enrolled households to join sustainable structures which will help them during the period of the intervention and afterwards. One of such structures is the Savings and Internal Lending Community (SILC) group. Before these groups are formed, members receive financial literacy training, which is rare in rural communities where residents are rarely empowered intellectually and education is low, making the rural folk unable to think of creative ways to improve their economic value. The SILC groups discuss ways of improving their livelihoods and save money weekly which they share out at stipulated times after they have given out loans from it and collected interest for a period. After doing this for a while, these thinkers from Otu Oganiru (meaning Association for Progress) SILC group sought a way to ensure their contributions increased so that ultimately, they would have more income. To this end, they decided to start farming.

They took their case to some members of the community and a particular family which is wealthy supported them with 2 plots of land for their cause. They live in a friendly community where people are allowed to go into any farm and collect cassava stems from double-stemmed plants, that was how they got the stems for planting and began farming.

The secretary of this group is Jude C. Ajah, a young and active man who is not yet married. Though he has no children of his own and is not an enrolled caregiver, he supports vulnerable children in the community with clothing and school fees at different times. He joined the SILC group for savings but with his enlightenment, he helps keep records and mobilizes the members, grouping them to work on the farm at different times. For the group, he says a lot of their members make Fufu (cassava paste) and instead of buying cassava from the market at exorbitant rates would buy at reduced rates from their farm, then they will have income for the general purse and decide on a sharing plan. The most exciting thing is he said “we decided to register the group into a cooperative, we have our bye-laws….” He explained that they have everything they need for a cooperative including the number of people.

The selflessness displayed by this young man has helped the group tremendously and the caregivers are happy, they are hopeful for a better future for themselves and their children.

 

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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Tracking an Index Case Helps Locate a Demoralized Vulnerable Household for Intervention

An area of health management that still needs great attention in Nigeria is the Psychological aspect. People go for medical treatment with other burdens that can either be relieved or aggravated based on the care they receive, just like Mr. Archibong, who knew his status and received treatment at a local health facility till he was informed that his prescription of Antirethroviral drugs could not be refilled unless he had a CD4 count test, for which he had to pay N3,000.00. At the time, he did not have the required amount. Confused, distraught and demoralized, he stopped treatment and sought other options instead, till happenstance brought his family under the HIFASS-LOPIN 3 project radar.

His 12-year-old son was hawking snacks in their neighborhood and walked into a HIV Testing Service (HTS) venue where a HIFASS-LOPIN 3 (a project funded by PEPFAR through USAID) community outreach was taking place. The outreach was hosted by one of the Community Based Organizations (CBO) sub-granted by HIFASS-LOPIN 3, Neighbourhood Care-Well Foundation (NCF). His son tested positive and was followed up as an index case, so his family could be tested. A few days later, the parents and other siblings were tested, and both parents along with the 12-year-old index case were the only positive cases recorded in the family. The boy was still not aware of his status.

During counselling, Mr. Archibong disclosed that he had previously been treated for Tuberculosis (TB) but had stopped receiving Antirethroviral drugs for about two years. At the initial visits, he could barely walk and said he lacked strength to keep up with his laundry business which he wanted to continue at home because he was ejected from his shop when he could not pay for it. His wife who worked with him at the time, stayed home to help him, as he became physically dependent. They looked to friends and relatives for basic needs. Also, he was encouraged to disclose his son’s status to him and eventually, with proper counselling, he told the boy.

Both parents and their son have now been linked to trusted facilities where their prescriptions are refilled regularly. They have received adequate training in relevant areas like financial literacy, education, nutrition, gender norms and a lot more. They have also received nutritional support in the form of food items – rice, beans, plantain, seasoning. The project supported Mr. Archibong with a seed grant of N40,000 which he put into his business. He has resumed laundry services and also now sells bread. His wife was also empowered with another seed grant of N40,000.00 and she now runs a hairdressing business.

Since the husband resumed treatment, he has regained strength and is back to his regular activities. So his wife is free to run her own business. The most fascinating part of their story is the fact that they learnt how to make ‘Tom Brown’, a highly nutritious meal made from soybeans, groundnut and either corn, millet or guinea corn, at a food demonstration held in HIFASS-LOPIN 3 office, Calabar. Positive households are usually encouraged to take it because it contains the body’s required nutrients and is high in energy. Mr. Archibong now consumes it regularly with his family and they sell it as well to people in their community, educating them of its advantages.

Also, he attends caregivers’ meetings regularly, where they discuss relevant information regarding care for themselves and their families and is the secretary of Nka Uforo (meaning Prosperity group), a Savings and Internal Lending Community (SILC) formed after caregivers were trained in financial literacy. He is ecstatic about the whole experience and has this to say “…I was sick, but now I am strong, at least I’m going back to my laundry business, combining with the bread business…. I am made to understand it is the American people that sponsored the program, so I want to say a big thanks. I want to say that you guys have helped me to stand…. I may not have ability to reward you all, but I believe that God will reward you all. I want to say thank you very much”.

 

 

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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‘Sanitation Has Improved In our Camp’

The excavation of the toilet at the Ikom Transit Shelter for Cameroonian refugees in Ikom, Cross River, has improved sanitation conditions in the camp and prevented the spread of air-borne diseases and various infections.

Following the influx of refugees from across the Cameroonian border into Cross River and Benue states, following the violence in parts of Cameroon, caring  – provision of water, health care, sanitation, etc – for them has become a challenge, one which the Health Initiative for Safety and Stability in Africa (HIFASS) has taken up, in conjunction with the United Nations’ High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

The refugees are scattered in five local government areas in Cross River and parts of Benue states. Sonia Besong is one of the refugees at the Ikom Transit Shelter. She fled the violence in her country(Cameroon) for Nigeria on October 31, 2017 and arrangements were made for her and over 200 others to reside at the temporary shelter, after registration.

The pit and pour-flush toilet units for the camp filled and spewed its contents, leaving the occupants of the camp open to infections. Thanks to UNHCR/HIFASS, a WASH analysis was carried out and the waste was treated and rechanneled, making the toilet fit to use again.

For Miss Besong, the intervention could not have come at a better time. “Before that toilet was excavated and area treated, many of the women in camp had to be rushed to the hospital to be treated for various infections they got from using the toilet. There was a lot of fear in camp when it was discovered that the health issues they were having resulted from using the unsafe toilets.

“Thanks to UNHCR/HIFASS, we all use the four toilet units and they are clean. We wash them every morning so that they can be safe for everyone and proper for use,” she said.

As one of the leaders in camp, Besong is conscious of the need to keep other refugees educated about the hazards of poor sanitation. “We explain to them the need for the constant washing and cleaning of the toilets and why we must keep germs far from us, so that the women and children, especially, can be safe,” said Besong who sees beyond the current situation in her country and aspires to continue her education when it is all over.

 

Disclaimer: This success story was made possible by the kind support from the United High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The contents are the responsibility of Health Initiatives for Safety and Stability in Africa (HIFASS) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of UNHCR.

 

PACR SUCCESS STORY

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HIFASS Facilitates Safe Deliveries in Over 5 Locations

Thanks to the new arrangement between HIFASS and the primary healthcare centres, over 10 deliveries were successfully carried out in five locations within Cross River State.

The births – Obanliku 6, Akamkpa 3, Etung 2, Ikom 3 and Boki 5 – left happy mothers, fathers and healthcare workers.

One of the mothers who was delivered of twin babies in Boki local government area (a boy and girl) was grateful to HIFASS and PHC centre, Boki.

“Right from the ante-natal, HIFASS and the PHC centre took care of me. I am grateful and will remain so. I am glad that the children are well and I am getting stronger.”

 

Disclaimer: This success story was made possible by the kind support from the United High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The contents are the responsibility of Health Initiatives for Safety and Stability in Africa (HIFASS) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of UNHCR.


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NSE SUNDAY FINDS STRENGTH IN VULNERABILITY

Nse Sunday lives in Uyi Effiom area of Anantigha, a suburb in Calabar Municipal Local Government Area of Cross River State. She became saddled with the responsibility of being sole provider for her six children, as well as her late sister’s three children, after her husband left them. Making ends meet was challenging and her petty trade of buying Water Leaves and Pumpkin Leaves from farmers and reselling helped her provide her household with just one meal daily, and her children were in and out of school. A support system would have helped her, but she could not build one while going about her daily activities the way she had to.

Her household was enrolled into Health Initiatives for Safety and Stability in Africa-Local OVC Partners in Nigeria (HIFASS-LOPIN 3) in 2015, a project funded by the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through United States Agency for International Development (USAID); and in 2016, during routine Household Testing and Counselling, she was confirmed reactive. She was referred immediately to the nearest health facility for treatment, by the Civil Society Organization (CSO) manning her locality – Rhemacare Integrated Development Service – escorted by a Community Volunteer (CV).

She received a seed grant to boost her business in the same year and leased four plots of land where she now grows her own vegetable. In addition, she has received training in proper nutrition, adherence counselling, food demonstration for People Living with HIV as well as financial literacy education. She is now a member of a Savings and Internal Lending Community (SILC) for caregivers in her community, where members are encouraged to save and borrow funds to boost their businesses and attends Caregivers Forum meetings regularly.

The Caregivers Forum has helped her tremendously as a support group, as she can get relevant information and encouragement easily. Her younger children attend kids’ club meetings and her adolescent girls attend the Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) meetings, where they are given information on prevention and relevant skills in a fun-filled atmosphere.

Her nine dependants have become consistent in school and can now have three meals daily. She has moved her household from their previous residence to a better house and has opened a bank account where she saves money, aside from the funds she saves in her SILC group. She said “apart from the savings group, the project has helped me open an account with UBA where I can save my money. This project has helped me O-O-O”. She gladly said to a staff of Rhemacare at the Caregivers Forum “Aunty Ima, I have bought myself a phone…” and offered her phone number.

This is a clear example of how strength can be found in vulnerability. Proper case management helped move Nse adhere to treatment and become a role model to other Caregivers empowered by HIFASS-LOPIN 3 in the local community of Uyi Effiong.

 

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.

 

LOPIN 3-SUCCESS STORY