Uchechi recovers from Malnutrition in Ebonyi State,Nigeria

Uhuotaru community, Ohaozara LGA, Ebonyi State, Nigeria, 18 September, 2015 – Uchechi runs out excitedly as she heard to sound of a vehicle arrive her home. As the team approach her compound she smiles shyly and hides runs back to her mum. Just two years old, she lives with 12 other family members in a thatched home, made of mud in a deep rural community two hours away from the city centre in Ebonyi State the eastern part of Nigeria.

Uchechi may look like any other little girl, but she is very lucky to be alive. In March 2015, she was identified as a malnourished child on the verge of dying. Her family is convinced that her recovery – facilitated by the direct intervention of LOPIN-3 project is direct help from God.

Uchechi, 1year 7 months, as she looked before receiving medical attention for the effects of malnutrition

Uchechi (1year 7 month) suffering from malnutrition in March, 2015

Uchechi is the 4th child of her mother Onyiyechi who is pregnant for her 5th child and the 9th child of her Father Chibueze Uzonwogo in order words she is born into a polygamous family. Chibueze is a well-digger and Onyiyechi the mother has no income generating activity. Uchechi and her siblings live in an overcrowded one room with her mother. From all indications, to have a meal a day is a struggle.

On Tuesday March 17, 2015, during in an outreach at Ugwulangwu autonomous community in Ohaozara LGA of Ebonyi State. Oluchi Chialuka a staff in the LOPIN-3 project drew the attention of the team to very ill child who she suspected was suffering from HIV.

Uchechi appeared pale and had no appetite; she was stunted and had rashes in her buttocks. At the outreach, she was weighed, measured and checked was her for other illnesses. Distressingly, they discovered that this little girl was battling two deadly diseases at once: diarrhoea and malnutrition. She was very weak and couldn’t walk in fact her ribs were clearly counted which was a result of severe acute malnutrition
Uchechi at 1year 7 months when she was first found

Chronic malnutrition is a common problem in Nigeria. The UNICEF study showed that malnutrition is the underlying cause of morbidity and mortality of a large proportion of children under-5 in Nigeria. It accounts for more than 50 per cent of deaths of children in this age bracket.

Uchechi’s condition was so severe that she was immediately referred to Federal Teaching Hospital (FETHA 1) Ebonyi State which is about 3-4 hours’ drive from Ugwulangwu. The clinical assessment showed Uchechi had pitting oedema sunken eyes and weight loss, weighing 6.5kg.

For two weeks, Uchechi fed on highly specialized therapeutic feeding, the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development Ebonyi State was very supportive in ensuring Uchechi received full treatment. After a critical 3 weeks Uchechi made a full recovery and returned back to her village. . Today Uchechi is visibly healthier and measured in the healthy “Green Zone. She has more hair on her head and is no longer underweight. Also LOPIN-3 provided her mother with clothing and nutrition support while in hospital including basic care needs and hygiene education.
5 months after treatment, Uchechi is now healthier and has recovered from severe malnutrition.


Uchechi in September, 2015 fully recovered

I sincerely thank LOPIN-3 and their for their kind hearts and efforts in saving the life of my little daughter. Our heart is full of joy we lack words to express how we feel seeing our daughter healthy again.
Uchechi’s father, Mr Chibueze Uzonwogo

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.


Mentor Mothers a gift from God


Mentor mother Abigail, baby Seth and Grace

Grace David first met Mentor Mother Abigail Moses in December 2014. This was her first pregnancy, and she was surprised to find someone who would talk to her about services for pregnant women in her area the outskirts of Abuja.
Grace speaking- I was 5months pregnant when Abigail referred me to Karshi General Hospital. I used the ANC services all through the remaining period of my pregnancy.
While I awaited my delivery day, one day, during a church service my prophet saw a revelation for me and said I shouldn’t have my baby in the hospital but at home. I was comfortable with that because there was a man in the area where I lived (Orozo, Akwansariki) called Dr Yakubu, he was a patent store man who would deliver pregnant women at home.
On the 22nd of April 2015 at about 9am, I started experiencing a lot of pain so I decided to meet a midwife in the area, I explained the way I was feeling and she said it was labour pains and asked me to go to the hospital. But I didn’t because I remembered what the prophet told me and so I went back home. All day long I was in pain. At about 7pm my husband called Dr Yakubu, he came immediately and started the delivery process, he gave me some injections which made me vomit, he also gave me a hot drip and he kept saying I should push but the baby wouldn’t come out.
At about 10pm Dr Yakubu said the baby’s position had changed and that he was coming out with his waist. He then asked for my previous scans, I said it was in the hospital where I registered. He then said I had to go there to deliver that it had become too complicated for him. My sister in-law quickly called the Mentor Mother (Abigail). She arrived quickly assisted me to the hospital.
Mentor Mother Abigail cared for, respected, listened to and supported Grace during her pregnancy. In fact, she built such a bond with her that when she finally delivered at Karshi General Hospital, she asked for Abigail to be there. After Grace was attended to in the hospital Baby Seth David was born on the 23rd of April 2015.HIFASS is proud to be able to say that Grace is just 1 of many women who have been beneficiaries of antenatal care, and built rapports with their caregivers that they have asked for them to be at the delivery. We are prouder still that our Mentor Mothers, time after time, give extra time, and make themselves available to support pregnant women in this way.


A Symbol of Hope- Mrs Dzungur Mwuese

A Mentor mother is a peer educator who has volunteered, selected and have been trained to assist others in a peer group to make decisions about behaviour change with respect to Ante-natal care, STIs, HIV and AIDS. In the context of the projects; Mentor Mothers are mothers who have participated in a PMTCT program and are trained health educators and role models. Mentor Mothers motivate pregnant women to; access services, adhere to their medical regimen and provide a network of support for positive mothers in the community.
Mrs Dzungur Mwuese, a lead mentor mother in Tarka LGA is a symbol of hope for newly diagnosed HIV-positive pregnant women and is proud of the impact she is still making in her community, despite stigmatization and discrimination she faced on a daily basis, it didn’t stop her from providing emotional support, education and empowerment to pregnant women and mothers to keep themselves and their children healthy.
Through interpersonal communications and peer sessions held 3 times a month, a group of (15) pregnant women were educated and advised on how to keep themselves healthy and the steps they can take to have a healthy HIV-free baby. The education is done by “Mentor Mothers” who have been trained to provide life-saving health education and psychosocial support to their peers. During Mrs Dzugur’s first peer session with pregnant women, she met with a lady who had never used a health facility before for ANC or during delivery. This was the lady’s forth pregnancy.
“I asked her why she had never attended ANC before,” Mrs Dzugur says. She replied that her husband didn’t have money for ANC services and her own mother never used ANC. So I asked her to invite her husband for the next meeting. She went home and gave her husband the message. He was so furious that he couldn’t wait for the meeting and came with her to my house. Saying to me “you this HIV woman, you want to force my wife for a test.” I tried to calm him down but to no avail, luckily for me a nurse came to fetch water in my compound and heard the arguments, so she explained further the benefits of ANC services. The man later calmed down and agreed to register his wife. The wife tested positive to HIV, the husband also tested and was positive and were immediately referred for Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART). A little while later the 3rd child, a 4 year old boy, took ill and was tested for HIV, he was also found to be positive but he later died. The two older children were tested for HIV and were found to be negative.
After the first peer session 1 out of the 15 pregnant women tested positive to HIV, the husband was also found to be HIV positive. During the second peer session 6 out of a new set of 15 pregnant women were found positive. They were referred for PMTCT after HIV test. The numbers were increasing and mentor mother Mrs Dzugur was worried as they complained of lack of resources to access PMTCT services, so she decided to start up a piggy bank popularly known as a “BAM” in the community.
“I started the BAM with 1500 naira” says Mrs Dzugur, others contributed between 50 – 100naira as they could afford. As community members heard about these contributions, whether pregnant or not they wanted to be a part of the peer group so they could access these funds. Now we have grown so big, we have 86 members; people can borrow up to 20,000naira and pay back with interest. We use the interest to buy oil and cow meat and have a party during festive periods.
“Thanks to HIFASS’ Safe Pregnancy Project (SPP) program, discrimination has reduced, young ladies are more educated they come to me saying condom mother, can we have condoms. This job has made me so popular in my community because I am a mentor mother. It has also exposed me to other programs/projects, have seen my potentials and now I am part of Peer Scale Initiative, a TB volunteer. I have learnt so much on HIV that I can now carry out HIV testing and counselling. ”
Mrs Dzungur Mwuese a lead mentor mother, Tarka LGA
Complex challenges such as stigma and health worker shortages are still in our communities. Mentor Mothers are powerful change agents against the stigma and discrimination that causes women to live in fear and prevents them from seeking care.


Caring for a Vulnerable Child: Mr and Mrs Ajah’s story


The Ajahs in their home

Angelena and Okoro Ajah, are elderly couple living in a remote town called Ishiagu in Ivo LGA of Ebonyi State Nigeria. Mrs Angelena sells fruits in Rivers state which is about 170km from where they reside. Her husband Okoro has been incapacitated for 11years leaving only Angelena to fend for the family. Sadly their only daughter died from elephantiasis which has left them very depressed. Angelina came across an insane woman roaming about with two children; she picked interest in her and approached her family as she was interested in the children. The tradition however is that to adopt the children her bride price would have to be paid. Mr Okoro then did that so the Ajahs were given custody of the two children Ifunya (7yrs old) and Chukwudike (5yrs old).
Mrs Angelena is presently catering for the children with her very little or no earnings. “I pay 3,700 naira termly for school fees for each of them, the last time Ifunaya was sick, the volunteer took her to the hospital.Healthcare and assistance is available to Angelina and Okoro via the LOPIN-3 project in Ebonyi State. “I am Ifeoma, and a native here, I am a volunteer under the LOPIN-3 project. We were told to search for those in need and so I came across this couple. We discovered they were barely surviving and then also caring for two children. We provided seeds for Mrs Ajah to start planting by her home in order to generate some income; we provided clothing for the household and give them monthly stipends.”


Ms Ifeoma, a Volunteer for LOPIN-3 project

Ifunaya and Chukwudike are safe today because of this brave couple; even in the most difficult circumstances they extended a helping hand. You can be a part of a success story too. With $60 yearly a child can go to school, with just $600 yearly, you can feed a household.

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.


15year old Kingsley the sole provider of the family

Kingsley and siblings15year old Kingsley the sole provider of the family It is hard to imagine a teenage child assuming responsibility for a household that may include siblings, or an ailing parent or grandparent. A child-headed family is one in which both parents have died and the children have not found alternative guardians within their extended family or community. This is what we were faced with at Ikwo L.G.A Ebonyi State in the south eastern region of Nigeria. September 18, 2015, as we approached the Nwanyigor Ali household in Ishiake Igude, Iwo L.G.A Ebonyi State, we meet Kingsley in front of his home which seemed very lonely and quiet; he stood staring at us alongside his two siblings Abigail and Isaac. Casually, one of the team member asked “where are your parents, where is your father?” Kingsley replied saying “there! My Father is there, where you are standing” pointing towards the direction we stood.

One could sense the trauma in his voice. In

Kingsley and siblings sitting in front of fathers grave

Kingsley and siblings sitting in front of fathers grave

shock we quickly stepped aside having realised we were standing over his father’s grave. Kingsley is 15 years old. He is the oldest of a family of 4, including two boys and two girls. Kinsley was in primary school when his mother died in July 2015. Just a year before he had lost his father, he had no choice but to start caring for her brother and sister. “It was very difficult for us when our mother died. I have to take care of my siblings. I have to buy their daily food, school levies as well as medicines when one of them was ill. I am the head of the family. It is really difficult because I don’t have a fixed monthly income as I am still in school myself. I started selling sweeping brooms I made from fibres of palm fronds from palm trees in my compound so that we could survive. Domestic works such as farming for food behind our house, fetching water, cooking and cleaning were shared among my brother and sister. “Finding money for our daily needs led me sometimes to beg because what I was gaining from my commerce was very insignificant. The proceeds from my sale are not sufficient to cater to the needs of the family. One of my small sisters Chinwe is said to have gone to the city, I cannot confirm her whereabouts”. Since identifying them, Kingsley and his siblings are now enrolled by the LOPIN3-Project; Local OVC Partners in Nigeria Region 3 – funded by USAID with the aim of mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS on Orphans and Vulnerable Children in area 3- Cross River and Ebonyi States (LOPIN-3). They have also received the following services; Psychosocial Support (Counselling Support), Nutrition Education and support, HIV testing and counselling (HTC) and also Legal Protection (Birth Registration). The LOPIN-3 project faces extreme challenges as we come face to face with the reality of life for thousands upon thousands of children living in poverty dwellings and infected or affected by the HIV/Aids pandemic. Children trying to cope, trying to raise their siblings and trying to keep whatever remains of the family, together. This is only one orphan’s story….

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.


Restoration of hope for the future

In 2011, Lovett and Blessing Edet lost both parents due to a prolonged unknown illness. Since then 16 year old Blessing assumed the responsibility of the head of the home caring for her 14 year old sister Lovett after her eldest sister left them to work as a maid in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. LOPIN -3 came in contact with these girls through a community volunteer who identified them on 24th May, 2015 during Orphans and Vulnerable Children enrolment process in Akamkpa Urban of Akamkpa LGA in Cross River state, Nigeria. They were immediately enrolled by the LOPIN3-Project; Local OVC Partners in Nigeria Region 3 – funded by USAID with the aim of mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS on Orphans and Vulnerable Children in area 3- Cross River and Ebonyi States (LOPIN-3).

Loveth on her first day back to school

Loveth on her first day back to school

Akanmpa LGA is 40 kilometres away from Calabar the State capital. Lovett and Blessing have lived there since the death of their parents. In order to survive they did all sorts of menial jobs while in some cases men try to take advantage of them in the process. The girls soon became an object of ridicule in the community and people often avoided.
In other to restore the girls’ self-esteem, LOPIN 3 carried out an advocacy on the 6th of October, 2015 to the principle of Akamkpa Government Secondary School on the possibility of re-enrolling Lovett back to school, having head the story of Lovett, the principal was moved and agreed to re-enrol Lovett back to school with waiver of first term school fees and other registration requirements while LOPIN 3 supported with 2nd and 3rd term school fees, JSS 3 examination fee, uniform, books, school bag and school shoes. Excited Lovett says “My dream of going back to school after the deaths of my parents have come to reality”
The following week, 14th October, 2015, Lovett returned to school while Blessing who is the head of the household has started learning a trade, which will go a long way to support their household. Also both of them have been placed under the guidance of the community volunteer in their locality.

“I never expected this kind gesture from LOPIN 3 as my relatives, family members and community have always promised to help us without any positive result. Our once lost hope in life has been restored” Blessing

Lovett and Blessings story is in essence a typical one. As a girl child who is double-orphaned, they are particularly vulnerable. Their story is a reminder of the psychosocial challenges orphans and venerable children face. Challenges such as lack of material resources, including food and clothes, limited possibilities to attend school on a regular basis, vast responsibilities and reduced possibilities for social interaction all contribute to causing worries and challenges for the child heads of households. Also most of these children face stigmatization and, to a great extent, ignored and excluded from their 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.