By Victor Emeruwa
The husband of Kumawuese Tarlumun died when she was only 26 years old, leaving her with three children. When he died, Tarlumun not only lost her soul mate but also her economic life-line, her future and those of her three children became bleak and dark like the clouds preceding a heavy evening rain.
The following two years were characterised not just by hardship, but a back-bending poverty with Tarlumun and her children only guaranteed an impoverished once-a- day meal. But the situation she found herself was nothing to her community of Zaki-Biam in Ukum Local Government of Benue state but a normal phenomenon of life. For the poor and long suffering residents of Zaki-Biam, poverty and deprivation is a second nature in life.
Four years after the death of her husband, Tarlumun found ‘love’ again. Love and marriage for her do not follow the usual pattern of fanciful romantic adventures, the widow’s love is available, for any man who can pick the meal ticket of the mother and her three children.
Her love affair turned out to be a one night stand that would change the trajectory of her existence yet again. Soon she found out, she would be expecting her child number four, this time without a father.
It was a normal service day at the St. Anthony Church where Tarlumun, now 30 years was attending a regular mid-week church service. Soon she began to experience pain around her stomach, unknown to her, it was a birth pang. Rushing to the lavatory she found herself expecting the delivery of her child. And all by herself she delivered a child in the restroom unaided. After the birth, she did what only a few mother would do: abandoned the child in the pool of blood and placenta.
Azege Emmanuel, desk officer, vulnerable children department at the Ukum local government admits that the incidences of child abandonment in the local government has been on the rise, he gave poverty and illiteracy as reasons, but he has a new approach and response to the challenge.
For a long time, child rights is a word that did not catch anyone’s fancy in the race for survival at Zaki-Biam community. Even the government did nothing to enlighten, educate and enforce the rights of children. Family planning awareness campaign and support were non-existent.
However, things are changing according to Emmanuel who is trained and equipped with case management skills to be able to respond in a systematic way. “After a long time, we are just beginning to respond in a professional way, before now, no documentation will be done, no visits, no investigation will be conducted and no referral will be made, but we have adopted the new approach we received from ActionAid training,” he said.
When asked why she abandoned her child in the lavatory, her response was as reckless as her action. “I have no means of taking care of the child” she stuttered. Tarlumun’s response sounds unacceptable yet understandable, the child would have received no care, Tarlumun shares a meal, once a day with her malnourished looking children, it would have been difficult to care for an infant.
Tarlumun’s child has been taken to a state operated orphanage in Markudi. Named Anthonia, she has been receiving the deserved care and attention and her future seemed headed for the skies. Then the news came, one that could bring her star crashing down even before it took off, and the news that could be devastating to Tarlumun. Mother and child are positive with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
But all hope is not lost, the Ukum local government Child Right Implementation Committee is following up on Tarlumun, offering her referral support for counselling and anti-retroviral medication.