“Please Uncle Onuche, don’t do this to me.”
Ojone lamented, fear written all over her body.
“My mama told me that, putting that ‘thing’ into my ‘bumbum’ could hurt me and make me bleed. It could also make me get AIDS and also pregnant!”
Before Ojone could say a word further, Uncle Onuche descended on her like a vulture. She screamed and cried for help, but help came from nowhere. She was raped and abandoned in her own pool of blood and in the semen of the rapist.
Few minutes later, her aunt, Uncle Onuche’s wife, learnt of what happened, she took Ojone inside, stripped her and beat her mercilessly while accusing her of trying to snatch her husband.
To cap it all, she sent a girl of twelve years old out of her house to the streets. Thank God for the timely intervention of a Pastor, Ojone would have ended up under the bridge homeless. Such is the plight of orphans and vulnerable children.
According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, an orphan is “a child whose parents are dead.” While vulnerable is used for somebody “that can be hurt, harmed or attacked easily, especially because of being small or weak.” Orphans are vulnerable. There are also vulnerable children who are not orphans. Children whose parents rush to work early in the morning, only to come back late at night are vulnerable. Children that are only fed but not taught the basic moral values of life as well as children who are left to hawk on the street are vulnerable to societal hazards.
The irony here is that those who need our protection most are the ones hurt most. Ojone sought protection from her aunt because she lost her parents to motor accident only to be hurt the more by her aunt and her husband. It is based on this background that the plight of orphans and vulnerable children would be best understood in my following observations.
First, most of these children lack where to lay their head, clothes to wear and food to eat. Some of them eat once a day, when they see food to eat. Where there is food, it may be ‘garri’ in the morning, ‘eba’ in the afternoon and ‘akpu’ in the evening. No balanced diet. The result is serious health related diseases such as kwashiorkor, tuberculosis and diarrhea.
Second, most of them are abused sexually by bad people and even their close relations. The worse of all is when they are transported out of Nigeria for commercial sex work. Their bodies are being used abusively while their captors profit from it. Such children suffer untold mental torture and emotional imbalance. What inhumanity to man!
Majority of the children being trafficked are orphans and vulnerable children. Some send their children or wards to sell on the street thereby exposing them to sexual harassment, kidnapping, accidents and even learning vices.
Let me also re-iterate that, due to undernourishment and sexual abuse, most of the orphans and vulnerable children are exposed to sicknesses and sexually related diseases. Most of them fall sick due to long hours of hard work and lack of care. Imagine giving only panadol to a child that is having fever, can you say that he is adequately cared for?
Furthermore, in the aspect of education, only some luck few are trained up to secondary school level. While children of their guardians dress to go school, they wake up early to cook food for them, take them to school, and do all the chores at home. Yet they are not sent to school to be educated. They remain illiterate baby sitters or nannies.
There are actions the government and society at large can implement to salvage this pathetic situation. I suggest that free education for all orphans be implemented.
First, there should be a law to prevent child abuse and to protect orphans and the vulnerable children.
Second, government should build orphanage homes for them where there they will be properly cared for. These homes should be managed by God-fearing people.
I suggest that free education for all orphans be implemented.
Also, government should strengthen private orphanage homes and control them too.
There should be a cumbersome free process for adoption by couples who have no children of their own and parents who fear God. Not adoption that will take them to slavery but adoption that government will supervise toward producing future leaders.
Lastly, government and good people of Nigeria should fight child trafficking with the last drop of their blood.
I sincerely believe that if we join hands together to care for the orphans and the vulnerable children in this country, we may be training future presidents, senators and Supreme Court judges who will take this country to the Promised Land.