Project SMILE Assists 218,465 OVCs,67,573 Household In Benue
From Msughshima Andrew, Makurdi
Sustainable Mechanism for Improving Livelihood and Household Empowerment, (SMILE) Project has ended in Benue state with the project successfully providing a mix of need-based and age appropriate services to 218,465 Orphans and Vulnerable Children, (OVC) and 67,573 households.
The Chief of Party of SMILE Project, Dr Emeka Anoje disclosed this in Makurdi, at an event to mark the successful implementation and close of the SMILE Project in Benue state.
He explained that the project was implemented in 17 out of 23 Benue local government areas adding that over its five year life span I the state, it worked through 20 civil society organizations to achieve its aims.
According to him, this figure represents about 40 percent of all beneficiaries served across all the five project states.
He named key interventions implemented by the project to include HIV care and support, a range of household economic strengthening activities which comprised of unconditional cash transfer, agricultural value chain and value addition, savings group promotion amd vocational skills training.
Other are support for birth registration and other child protection services, nutrition and food security services, support for school enrolment and retention as well as adolescents girls programming aimed at specifically reducing a risk of HIV transmission among adolescents girl through educational and psychosocial empowerment, improvement in parental relationship and structured HIV prevention messaging.
Also speaking, the Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Mrs Ene Obi said today’s celebration would not be possible without the funding from USAID who saw the need in addressing challenges of orphans and vulnerable children and strengthening institutions responsible for their welfare, pave the way by funding the project from 2013 to 2018.
She quoted a 2008 Situation Assessment and Analysis of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) which revealed that 17.5million or 24.5 percent of children in Nigeria are vulnerable with 17 percent classified as Highly Vulnerable.
She said the contributing factors include HIV epidemic, poverty, maternal mortality, conflict, harmful cultural practices and gender inequality.
“A review of the situation birthed the need to develop systems and structures to respond and serve orphan and vulnerable children who often live in precarious economic and food security conditions with poor access to basic services by working with relevant stakeholders to ensure regular OVC assessment and improve information sharing that will lead to OVC responses with quality coordination”, she said.
Mrs Obi expressed enthusiasm on the success of the project in the state and appealed that children should be treated with care because any child in any home is an angel.
The wife of the Benue State Governor, Mrs Eunice Ortom who commended the SMILE team for putting a smile on the faces of Benue people said the project was a huge success.
She said it is a happy ending following experiences and testimonies shared by beneficiaries expressing the hope that SMILE project will return to the state to consolidate on these achievements.
She called on all Benue people especially beneficiaries of the project to impact on take advantage of the knowledge to better their lives and that of others around them to ensure the programme is sustained.
Some of the beneficiaries of SMILE project who narrated their experiences, Mrs Moga Ngohol, from Buruku and Kama Luga Caroline thanked the project team for giving them a new lease of life.
They pledged to sustain the businesses which they started through the help of the project and expressed hope that the project will be brought back to the state and soon too.
SMILE is a five-year United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supported grant implemented by a consortium led by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in collaboration with ActionAid and Westat.
The project was funded to improve the wellbeing of OVC and their caregivers through Household Economic Strenthning (HES), health services including HIV and Tuberculosis, TB,services as well as nutrition services, access to education among other supports.
The projects commenced in 2013 and was implemented in Abuja, Benue, Edo, Kogi and Nasarawa states.