When his picture was published around the world last January, the world was horrified. The two-year-old Nigerian boy was emaciated and riddled with worms. His condition compelled his parents to abandon him, for many claimed that he was a ‘witch.’
Danish aid worker Anja Ringgren Loven, who found the toddler in the streets bent down and gently began feeding him and giving him water from a bottle and later wrapped up the disorientated toddler in a blanket and took him to the nearest hospital for treatment.
Ms. Loven spent the next eight months feeding him and amazingly, the toddler that she has named Hope, is now bubbling with life.
According reports, when Hope reached the hospital, he was given medication to remove the worms from his stomach and daily blood transfusions to infuse more red blood cells into his body.
Two days after the aid worker asked for the community’s help with Hope’s costly medical bills, Ms. Loven said she received US$1million in donations from around the world.
Just eight weeks later, Hope is unrecognizable. He has gained weight and has been pictured smiling and playing with other children.
Ms Loven uploaded new photos of Hope on Saturday, and wrote: “As you can see on the pictures, Hope is really enjoying his life now having 35 new brothers and sisters who ALL take such good care of him, play with him, study with him, and make sure he is safe and is getting a lot of love.”
But she explained Hope has hypospadias, a genital birth defect meaning the urethra emerges somewhere on the shaft or even the base of the penis, instead of at the tip and surgery is planned for Hope.
To allay the fears of Hope’s future, Ms. Loven wrote, “This is an operation the doctors have performed many times, so Hope will be very fine.”
The Good Samaritan, as Ms. Loven is being described by many, is the founder of African Children’s Aid Education and Development Foundation, which she created three years ago, with her husband, to help children who have been labeled witches and therefore neglected by the family and the community.
Ms. Loven said “thousands of children are being accused of being witches and we’ve both seen torture of children, dead children and frightened children” on Facebook, with accompanying images of her feeding the young boy and appealing for donations to help pay for his medical bills in January.
“Besides giving Hope the very best treatment we are also building a clinic to save many more children out of torture.” Ms Loven runs a children’s center where the youngsters she saves live and receive medical care, food and schooling.
Ms. Loven has been commended for her sacrifice to part of humanity. An admirer wrote on facebook, “The first time I saw the pictures of Hope starving and dying in front of a crowd of people who just laughed at him broke my heart. Anja and her team came along and took him away. Her humanity & goodness shone out for the world to see. Anja saved his life, paid his hospital bills & finally brought him home. I know he will face more medical problems in future. No baby could walk away unscathed from a nightmare like that. But we are all behind him. Sending him love and whatever else he needs. I for one pray for him and the others like him daily.”
In Liberian communities, for example of West Point and New Kru Town, children who have confessed to being involved in ‘witch activities’ are simply sent to their biological parents or just ignored.
“A young girl who recently confessed to being a witch and said she caused the deaths of several of her family members, including her mother, is simply ignored in the community,” a woman told our reporter, when she was interviewed for this story in New Kru Town yesterday.
“While many people may not believe some of these stories, that a child can point a finger at some older person in the community and explain her activities in the dark world, people believe her and so those she may point out as part of the witch community are looked down on in our community.”
In many cases, she said such children are brought from parents to live with relatives and therefore whenever such a confession occurs, the child is sent to the biological parent.
“But if the parent resides right here in Monrovia, she simply sends the child to any of the faith-healing churches to get her life back.”
Another woman told the Daily Observer, “Whatever the case is, such children suffer and some are beaten and denied food. It is a silent torture that some children undergo and authorities are silent.”