Helen in Omoana House
Children sit on the front stoop of Omoana House, a cheery yellow building where sick and malnourished children are rehabilitated to health in Njeru, Uganda. Local hospitals organizations refer kids to Omoana, which then takes on the expense of caring for the children in-house, providing counseling and sending the kids to school. Omoana spends about $600 per child per year for this care, with much of the money coming from overseas donors. When the children are well enough, they rejoin their families or guardian. “Omoana” means “child” in Luganda, a language spoken in Uganda.
Helen, 12, looks out the window of her shared bedroom at Omoana House, a facility providing intensive rehabilitative care to sick and malnourished children. Helen (last name withheld) came to Omoana almost two months ago. Children with one or two parents who have died of AIDS make up the majority of kids living at Omoana. Across Uganda, about 1.2 million children have been orphaned by AIDS, according to UNAIDS data from 2009. These children may live with social stigma and be neglected by relatives and neighbors.
Helen (far left) eats lunch with some of the younger children at Omoana House. Without proper nutrition, not only does a child’s health suffer but a young child’s development can be delayed. In Uganda, 38% of children under age five are stunted (low height for age), according to UNICEF in 2009.
Helen makes her bed in the room she shares with three other girls. Children come to Omoana with ailments ranging from malnutrition to HIV/AIDS. Omoana can care for up to 25 children at one time and up to 30 children in one year.
Helen waits for Adrien Genoud, Omoana’s founder and projects coordinator, to walk her to school for her first day. “We treat the children like any other children,” said Genoud. “We talk to them about the fact that one day they will have to work for themselves, participate in the development of their country.”