Nigerian Town Struggles to Support Its Orphans

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Grandmother Ibrahim, with 7-year-old Amino.

Grandmother Ibrahim, with 7-year-old Amino. Brenda Wilson, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Brenda Wilson, NPR
Children in Otupko

The children seated on the bench are cared for by their 89-year-old grandfather. Brenda Wilson, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Brenda Wilson, NPR
21-year-old Zachary Ibrahim with younger siblings

21-year-old Zachary Ibrahim with younger siblings. Brenda Wilson, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Brenda Wilson, NPR

For a while, the small Nigerian town of Otukpo enjoyed the benefits of foreign aid.

When the money disappeared, however, the town was left struggling to care for thousands of orphans left behind when their parents died of AIDS and other causes.

The Center for Economic Development and Population Activities, known here as CEDPA, ended its project for orphans here five months ago. It covered the cost of school fees for the rest of the year for a thousand orphans in the state of Benue, where Otukpo is located; just 100 children in Otukpo received assistance. CEDPA also created community-based cooperatives to generate employment in the area.

But the money CEDPA spent over the last five years was never meant to be more than a start. The local government was ultimately supposed to take over, but a town official says that would require money from the national government that cannot be counted on with any regularity. He suggests that it would be better not to start a program at all than to start one and then yank the funds; but CEDPA says it sent signals the aid was coming to an end.

Either way, many of Otukpo's children will have to get by on very little this holiday season. NPR's Brenda Wilson reports on the crisis.

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