Reporting by ChildFund Ethiopia
Just by walking the streets of Ayertena village, Addis Ababa, one can easily observe the poverty situation in which many Ethiopians live. It is also common to see many people with disabilities due to leprosy.
Tizita, a 13-year-old girl, lives with her grandmother in the village. Her grandmother is unable to work because she is extremely affected by leprosy to the point of physical deformity.
The traditional belief that leprosy is a curse or punishment has aggravated the stigma and discrimination. When Tizita’s grandmother was young, leprosy sufferers often were forced to leave their homes. Her family was among those forced to migrate, and they settled around ALERT (All Africa Leprosy, Tuberculosis and Rehabilitation Training Centre), a medical facility in Addis Ababa, specializing in leprosy disease. ChildFund Ethiopia is also implementing a child and family development project in this area.
HIV/AIDS is another devastating health, economic and social problem in Ayertena. Ethiopia is home to a large and increasing population of orphans: 13 percent of children throughout the country are missing one or both parents. Among the estimated 5.4 million orphans (from newborn to age17), 900,000 lost parents to HIV/AIDS.
Tizita lost both her father and mother HIV/AIDS. Worse, she inherited the disease, as well as the responsibility of caring for her grandmother.
Being HIV-positive initially made Tizita’s life full of anxiety and trouble. She worried about her health condition and the stigma of having the disease. “I often was seriously sick,” she says, tears flowing down her cheeks. “I don’t know why I am given the worst situation. I was worried what would happen to me and my grandmother in the future.” She also lived in fear of discrimination when she went to school and the market.
Yet, Tizita has found help through one of ChildFund’s affiliated projects in Ayertena, which assists orphans and vulnerable children. “I recently started ART (antiretroviral drug therapy), which has helped me to improve my health condition. Now I feel healthy and am attending to my education,” she says.
“I’m getting psychological support from the ChildFund project and my teachers,” she adds. Because she now has a support network, she also worries less about discrimination due to HIV/AIDS. “My hope has been revived,” she says.