The Association of Resident Doctors, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (ARD-UATH), recently carried out a phenomenal task that brought smiles to the faces of poor and vulnerable children. REGINA OTOKPA reports
Over the years, the number of abandoned children within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), has continued to soar, creating a source of worry for the government. There have been several cases of babies abandoned shortly after birth in hospitals.
A number of others have been dumped at dumpsters, drainage systems, public toilets, market places and on the road sides. INSIDE ABUJA checks also revealed that some children branded as witches/wizards by their families are left in some of these places to die.
Some of the abandoned children are products of unwanted pregnancies and by mothers who are not ready to take up the responsibility of parenting. While some mother might be ashamed of the child for one reason or the other, other parents simply lack the means to take care for these innocent children.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, several government and private organisations raised concerns over the high rate of pregnancy especially amongst teenagers.
According to Section 16 of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015, it is a criminal offence to abandon children or leave them without a means of sustenance.
However, there are fears of an explosion in the number of abandoned children in 2021, given the precarious situation which the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many individuals especially ladies, and some families into. To assist government cater for these innocent children, several individuals and organisations have established orphanage homes.
This is geared towards giving proper care and support to them , in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child which clearly states that every child has a right to amongst other things, care and protection Sadly, due to budgetary constraints, provision of food, good shelter, education and healthcare services in orphanage homes are largely dependent on freewill donations from individuals, associations and voluntary organisations.
Considering the importance of reaching out to the poor and vulnerable within their constituency, the Association of Resident Doctors at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (ARD-UATH), took out time during its health week, to reach out to several abandoned children through its “Kiddies Mission.”
Singling out the Anawim Homes; Society of the Poorest of the Poor in Gwagwalada, the doctors who filed out in their numbers, made available huge donation of food stuffs, toiletries, provisions and several other necessary items, to the children.
They further discarded all titles to give the children a memorable evening as they danced, prayed, sang and chatted with the children whose excitement knew no bounds. President ARD- UATH, Dr. Abah Robert Francis, said that as part of its annual celebration, the Association saw the need to extend its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to poor and vulnerable children.
He noted that the gesture was also another way of offering thanks to God for protecting its members and keeping them alive, despite their exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed so many lives including some doctors and other health workers
“We celebrate our health week every year and as part of our corporate social responsibility to the society and for this year 2020, we decided to visit the Anawim orphanage home so that we can offer the little that we have to this community.
“We as doctors have also been exposed, we have also been infected but we thank God we lost no lives within our own community and that is the very much reason why we resolved to offer back to God in Thanksgiving by giving back to the community especially those that do not have at all,” he said.
According to Abah, over the years and under his tenure, the ARD-UATH has made an indelible mark on the lives of many in the FCT through visits to several orphanage homes, provision of free health services to both the orphanage homes and communities within Gwagwalada Area Council.
But the doctors didn’t stop there, they were also at LEA Poporipo Primary School located at Angwan Dodo in Gwagwalada, for an interactive, instructive and exciting health and career talk with the pupils, in addition to the several gifts showered on them.
Chairman sub committee on Medical Outreach for the 2020 ARDUATH Health Week, Dr. Abah Innocent, noted that the activities carried out in the health week were carefully planned to make a difference in the lives of the poor and vulnerable in society.
“We have always embarked on free medical and surgical outreach but this time around we chose to visit the orphans, destitute and abandoned and that is why we are here at Anawim orphanage home to interact with the children and we hope to continue in this trend in the years to come.
“We want to get the orphans off the streets and if we really want to do this, we have to find a comfortable place for them after that, we need to routinely visit them otherwise, they will spill over to the streets and we will have more social challenges,” he said. Innocent who expressed concerns over the poor attitude of Nigerians to their health, warned that such negligence comes with a deadly price.
“People do so much to the negligence of their health and at the end of the day, they pay so very much for it. In our various schedules and endeavours, we should try to look after our health.
It is not only when you are sick you should see a doctor. Routinely we should try to check our blood pressure, our blood sugar and look after ourselves,” he said. Inside Abuja observed that the doctors used the week- long programme not only to reach out to poor and vulnerable children, but to embark on a blood donation campaign.
Vice President ARD- UATH at the time, Dr. Oji Christabel who doubled as the chairman of its 2020 health week, said the blood donation was meant to assist those in need of blood especially indigent patients in need of blood but cannot get it.
She urged people to come out and donate blood. Unable to mask her excitement, one of the coordinators of Anawim home, Rev. Sis. Angela James explained that the parents and families of majority of the children under its care in the FCT and states were they are present, cannot be traced.
Explaining that Anawim is a Hebrew word meaning poorest of the poor, she noted that besides caring for abandoned children, the Home equally cares and supports the elderly who are rejected or abandoned for allegedly participating in witchcraft activities, touts and prostitutes.
“These children are really children without trace; we picked some of these children from the dust bin, uncompleted buildings, mentally ill and streets around. “We have an apostolic for street boys engaged in kidnapping, robbery amongst other activities whose lives we have been able to change and we engaged them in jobs.
We have old people who are rejected by their families whom we visit to bring smiles to their faces. We follow them house to house, village to villages to talk to them and give them what we have.
“We have the prostitutes apostolic we call them ladies with easy virtues; we always go to the hotel to advise them. Most of them are HIV positive but they always come here because we give them hope, if they need food or other support they come here.
“We offer help and support in various ways we can but its not that we have so much to do what we do, its people like you that come to help us in one way or the other,” she said.
But Dr. Abah has pointed out that government has a role to play in supporting individuals and organisations in reaching out to the poor and vulnerable including orphanage homes, to make the lives of the abandoned more meaningful.
“The community around us will actually need a lot of services. We do go to primary heath care centre where we offer services to them but there are no much facilities there, we need even consumables to take care of them but we can not do it all.
“What we are doing here is a free will donation from our own pockets. If the government can partner with us in a programme like this, it will do a lot,” Abah said.