Two girls sitting on the floor, one sister embracing the other one
The heart-wrenching stories of three AIDS orphans at N'Djamena in Chad:
Claude (ten), Annick (six) and Sabine (eight), are three adorable children who live at SOS Children's Village N'Djamena. They joined the village on 18 March 2005, the day it was opening its doors. Their peculiarity is that they are orphans as a result of HIV/AIDS, in addition to already being infected by the epidemic. After the death of their respective fathers, their mothers were unable to take care of them because they are terminally ill. Despite this situation, the children live normally and get education, protection, love and security like all the children in the village.
Claude, Annick and Sabine have a common history, without being from the same biological family. Claude is a single child, whereas Annick and Sabine are sisters. They arrived together in the village the same day, on 18 March 2005, the day SOS Children's Village N'djamena was receiving its very first children. They were warmly welcomed by the village director, the mother counsellor and all the SOS mothers. It was a great day of enjoyment and festivities. "It was a great day for us here in the village. We were very happy because we were finally receiving the children we have been waiting for", said Mama Pauline, one of the SOS mothers. When and how the children were tested to be HIV positive?
The children were found out to be HIV positive shortly after they joined the village. This was under a special programme the village conceives in collaboration with the SOS Medical Centre, to make a regular follow-up clinic so that the children's health can be easily controlled. "As soon as the children began to go to the medical centre for their follow-up, we noticed that Claude, Annick and Sabine always had problems. They had respiratory complications and also dermatitis. We suspected an infection but, it was necessary to make suitable analyses so that we could determine the nature of their disease", said the village director, Abdelkérim M. A.
The exams were done and the results demonstrated that the three children were HIV positive. Far from being disappointed, the village leaders rather begun reflecting on how to keep the children away from abandonment and help them live a normal life. The SOS mothers were informed about the cases. With the permanent support of the doctor and the social worker, they are regularly advised on how to deal with the situation at home. The first days were difficult, but the SOS mothers adapted themselves to the situation as time passed. Today, things seem to be normal and the mothers rather appreciate the progress made by Claude, Annick and Sabine. "It is already two years and six months since I took care of Claude. The more time that passes, the less I feel the load of work that I had in the beginning. I was very worried when Claude had just arrived because of the dermatitis he always had. I used to disinfect his clothes every day and make sure that he takes all his medicine in time. I used to carry him in my room every night when he had respiratory problems. I was very afraid as he was so small and I always tested him several times to see if he was still breathing. Now, as he grows up, Claude is more and more conscious and he always reminds me that he has medicine to take. He learns gradually how to be independent. He can now take his medicines alone and he also learns how to control himself", Claude's mother said. "I appreciate my daughters because they already know that they have to avoid objects which can wound them. They don't really know why they take such precautions. I will explain to them when they are bigger. The situation was so difficult at the beginning but, as the girls grow up, the work load also decreases", said Annick and Sabine's mother.
"Annick and Sabine have rarely problems. They are very often in good health but Claude has a fragile health. He is regularly tired and ill. He is often pale from time to time", the village director said. "Some of their brothers and sisters here in the village know that they are ill because they go to the hospital regularly and they take medicines everyday but they are still too young to really know which kind of illness they have", he added.
Annick and Sabine live in a family house with other children; Claude also has his family house with brothers and sisters. Despite their situation, they behave like all the children of their ages with the same feelings, the same desires, the same tastes, the same pleasures and the same passions. "Claude is like all the little boys. He loves football a lot. He has his own ball and every time he feels well, he calls his friends to play. He likes playing with his brothers and sisters as well as with other children of the village, said his SOS mother. "Annick likes playing with dolls, while Sabine is interested in cooking. She likes to see me when I prepare, to learn how I mix the various ingredients to make a sauce", said the girls' mother. "Claude likes eating cakes and drinking milk, Annick and her sister love rice with tomato sauce and fish", the village director added. The children follow a normal schooling with good school results. When they are grown up, Claude likes to be pilot, Annick a doctor and Sabine a teacher.
The HIV prevalence rate in Chad is 3, 3 %; the most affected population varies between 15 and 24 years. [Source: national inquiry/PPLS 2005-2006]. The country is known as one of the poorest of the world with few social safety nets. Reports estimate that 16,000 children from 0 to 14 years are infected / affected by HIV/AIDS, 57,000 children from 0 to 17 years are orphans due to the epidemic. [Source ONUSIDA, Rapport sur l'épidémie mondiale de SIDA, 2006]. The death of parents from AIDS has created many hardships for children.
People suffering from AIDS are often confronted with severe threats to their well-being including isolation, educational access, shelter, nutrition etc. Thanks to SOS Children's Villages, Claude, Annick and Sabine are supported with shelter, food, clothing, medical care, and school support.