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A Timely Blessing: Economic Strengthening for Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Akwa Ibom State

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The HIV/AIDS epidemic has taken a great toll on the lives of Nigerians. With 174,253 AIDS- related deaths recorded in 2014[i] alone, Nigeria’s estimated 17.5 million[ii] orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) as a result of HIV/AIDS are among the largest in the world. Often lacking parental support due to the loss of one or both parents to AIDS, OVC are susceptible to abuse, discrimination and violence. This susceptibility in turn increases their overall social and economic vulnerability.

In 2008, Blessing Akpan David, from Ediene-Abak, Abak Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, lost her father and family bread winner to AIDS at the age of 10. Blessing, her mother and five siblings were left with only a small parcel of land. Despite their efforts to cultivate cassava and vegetables, the David family was unable to meet their basic feeding needs and education was a luxury they simply couldn’t afford. The responsibility of caring for her family fell on Blessing in 2012 when her mother was diagnosed with HIV, took ill and was unable to engage in any income generating activity. Uneducated, lacking vocational skills and unable to earn an income, Blessing struggled to keep her family alive.

Blessing showcasing her acquired hair dressing skills

Blessing showcasing her acquired hair dressing skills

Blessing was identified in 2014 as an OVC and enrolled as a beneficiary of the USAID funded Strengthening Integrated Delivery of HIV/AIDS Services (SIDHAS) project, implemented by FHI 360. The SIDHAS project provides a range of services including educational and nutritional support as well as protection, psychosocial and economic strengthening services to children who are orphaned and vulnerable due to HIV/AIDS. Blessing, who tested HIV negative, was nominated to acquire hair dressing skills and psychosocial and educational services were rendered to her siblings. She commenced training in January 2015 and within 4 months, was proficient in hair dressing skills and graduated from the program.

Today, Blessing works full-time in a salon and now earns enough to provide for her family’s needs. With some savings she has made through work, Blessing is even looking to establish her own salon. “If not for the SIDHAS project, I would never have acquired a skill, help my family or even think of having a business of my own. All thanks to the SIDHAS project,” Blessing says.

This story resonates with over 120,000 OVCs who currently benefit from the services provided by the USAID funded SIDHAS project. The project continues to ensure that OVCs in Nigeria receive the necessary support to live quality lives in spite of the impact of HIV/AIDS on their families and support systems.

[i] 1Nigeria GARPR 2015

[ii] FMWASD, 2008 situational analysis

 

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