Posted by By CHRISTIAN OCHIAMA, Enugu - for sunnewsonline on
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador, Nwankwo Kanu whose job is to draw public attention to critical areas, says....
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador, Nwankwo Kanu whose job is to draw public attention to critical areas, says that the International body wants to address this.
Visiting Nigeria for the first time since his liaison with UNICEF, Kanu focused his attention on the dreaded HIV/AIDS as it affects children. This was part of UNICEF’s activity among the group of people they call OVC-(Orphans and Vulnerable Children).
Answering questions from journalists who covered the visit, Kanu said, " I will be ready to help because I want to be with the kids and help them, give their lives meaning".
It was part of the fulfillment of this interest in kids that took him to a community in Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State – Ifuruoka Amalla.
The president of a non-governmental organisation, Mediating for the Less Privileged and Women Development (MEWOOD), Dr. Betty Agujiobi, took the soccer prodigy and his UNICEF team to three families.
The shock of the devastating effect of HIV/AIDS was brought home.
Kanu, in reaction said, "sometimes people say AIDS is not in Nigeria, but this visit will prove that there are a lot of cases relating to HIV/AIDS".
And indeed it did. The condition of the survivors in one of the families can melt a heart even if it was made of granite. The man is dead. So also his wife. They left behind two sons.
The elder is just about 12 and he was addressed as the head of the family. It was not certain whether or not they have the virus but that is not the main concern.
Out of school and barely making out a living, the family produce brooms to survive. That was at the stage MEWOOD met them. At least now, they are back in school.
The story in the other two families visited was the same. In both, widows of the men who had been knocked out by AIDS are ostensibly heading the families. In each, there are about seven children aged between 11 and three years. Means of sustenance? Local craft making, cracking and selling of palm kernels.
Kanu joined in the palm kernel cracking, a reminder of his days as a little boy, when he did it not as means of earning a living but as a way of producing local snacks, eaten in between regular meals.
Even at that, the seriousness of the matter was not lost on him as he and his friends donated N250,000.00 to the three families.
At the palace of the traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Sylvanus Eze, orphans and vulnerable children gathered for a meal of jollof rice. To the children, it was fun because that may be the only meal for the day. To Kanu and UNICEF representatives, it was a horrifying evidence of what AIDS is doing to the rural poor. The effect is pitiable.
Daily Sun asked Dr. Agujiobi how the disease gained such an upper hand in the area. She said in a most somber tone "it is Obolloafor".
Again she was asked what Obolloafor has got to do with it. She looked at this reporter as if to confirm that he had not just arrived from planet mars and then said "Obolloafor is a junction town". There was no need for more questions as the reporter’s mind went to a similar junction town in Zimbabwe that was almost wiped out by the disease.
UNICEF officials on the trip were worried that the effort to combat the disease was being hampered by stigmatisation. Victims would rather die quietly of "pneumonia" than accept that they have AIDS.
Kanu’s involvement may yet help the situation that is presently receiving mere lip service at worst and cosmetic attention through radio and television jingles, at best.
As a football star, he is a celebrity easily identified even in the rural areas.
He acknowledged this fact. According to him, "with my popularity as a footballer, the job is made a lot easier. I don’t have to come there and begin to introduce myself or explain my mission".
Kanu further enthused: "I believe that when this goes out, a lot of people will see that there is a lot in what you are doing".
True to his claim, shouts of "Papillo" rent the air as he arrived the primary school football field for a novelty match to raise awareness about the scourge of AIDS.
The match between two youth teams, Sharon Football Club (in yellow shirt) and Young Stars Football Club (in black shirt) also produced a potential star, Onyebuchi Iyiagu whose mesmerizing moves in the field of play did not fail to attract the attention of Kanu who took his name with a promise to enroll him in his football academy in Owerri.
In appreciation, the youths of the town, on their motorcycles, formed a motorcade that escorted him to the Enugu – Makurdi Expresse way for his trip back to Enugu to watch the Brazil- Ghana match.