Blue Nile Children's Organization Programs
BNCO’s Orphan Sponsorship Program directly supports abandoned and orphaned children who live with foster families in the sub-city of Kolfe-Keranyo. Foster parents are often relatives; almost all are women who may be illiterate or HIV positive themselves. They may make a little money carrying heavy loads of wood or stone, collecting garbage or making injera, the bread eaten by everyone in Ethiopia. Sponsors in the US make monthly donations to provide food, clothing, shelter, health care and educational opportunities. Children can remain in the program all the way through University or technical college; some of our graduates have become computer technicians, tradespeople or nursing assistants.
The success of the sponsorship program led the Ethiopian government to donate a parcel of land upon which to build a medical facility. Our medical clinic opened in 2010 and provides primary care and preventive services, including vaccinations, family planning and pre- and post-natal care. Since the clinic opened we have treated over 5000 patients, 75% of whom are women and children, and distributed contraception to hundreds of women. Over 200 women have graduated from the clinic’s eight-week health education classes, with each receiving a bag of teff, the Ethiopian grain staple, as an incentive and reward. The goals of the health education program are to improve maternal and child health and reduce the spread of disease through improved hygiene, sanitation and nutrition.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
The most prevalent health conditions seen at our clinic are HIV/AIDS, typhoid and bacterial and parasitic infections. The need to prevent the spread of these diseases through treatment and health education was made evident when one Board member reported that while she was there, two foster parents died of AIDS and two orphans were very sick with HIV. It is not easy to find foster families for the orphans, so the loss of even two has a significant impact on the community.
Despite challenges like these, BNCO has been able to establish a safe, nurturing community for the orphans, and has now become a vital community resource. The children come to the clinic grounds three times/week for food, English class, and counseling when necessary. To provide the orphans with much needed protein, we purchased chickens, constructed a coop and scratching area and taught families how to collect the eggs.
Most orphans have no access to running water and are able to bathe only once every couple of weeks in small tubs. This increases the spread of communicable diseases and is a source of shame for the children who have to go to school dirty. In 2012 we built two showers and two sinks on the clinic grounds to improve orphan health and hygiene and reduce stigma.
We currently need a blood chemistry machine for the clinic to reduce the risk of staff being splashed with contaminated blood during manual blood analysis.