In July 2001, the Countryside Children's Home at Bawjiase in the Central Region of Ghana had 73 children most of them below the age of 10. For their sources of food, the Home had a little garden of vegetables, an acre of food crop farm, a chicken coop with a dozen of chickens, less than 10 goats and sheep in an open pen; and had to rely on handouts from benevolent individuals and organizations.
The parents of the Home, Captain (Rtd) and Mrs. Yeboah, did not receive any support from the Social Welfare, and could hardly feed the children with 3 square meals a day. "If these handouts don't arrive on time or are not forthcoming, the children will have to skip lunch and have one meal for supper", the mother of the Home said when WHO first visited the Orphanage three years ago.
Today, thanks to the World Health Organization's programme on poverty alleviation. The Home now has a multi-million cedi poultry farm which has turned out 7 batches of broilers since its inception a year and a half ago. It is able to supply chicken and guinea fowls to people in the local community, staff of the WHO country Office and to some shops in town. But most importantly, the children of the Home are now enjoy two eggs per child per week and some chicken to supplement their protein requirements.
At present, the bird population at the poultry farm number 200cockerels, 200 guinea fowls, 695 broilers ready for sale and 862 layers which have starting laying more than 10 crates of eggs per day. "The layers have not reached their peak yet; I am sure we will get more eggs than we are collecting now in the weeks ahead", the father of the Home, Capt (Rtd) Joe Yeboah said when the team from the Country Office caught up with him on the poultry farm last week.
It is a lovely sight to see the cockerels and layers pecking away in their coops; and a joy to see that in just two years, the dozen chickens have been replaced by over 1000 birds.
The Home has also acquired extra land and put it under cultivation. Now the little cabbage garden has given way to a greenery of vegetables such as garden eggs, cabbage, carrots and okra, a pineapple plantation and food crop farms stretching as far as the eyes can see.
So far WHO has spent 20,000 US Dollars (170 million cedis) to provide the poultry and a decent toilet and bathhouse for the orphanage. The 40 million cedi toilet facility was built to replace a biogas toilet constructed for the Orphanage by a benevolent organization over 10 years ago, the use of which had been overstretched and posed a dangerous threat for an epidemic outbreak. The 35 million cedi 12 shower bathhouse was built to replace an open and deplorable structure used by the children and mothers of the Home and was commissioned in June 2002 by Dr. Ebrahim Malick Samba, WHO Africa Regional Director through whose vision these achievements have been realized.
Dr. Samba's vision led to the first example of promoting health through poverty reduction some four years ago with the Mother of Peace Orphanage in Mutoko, Zimbabwe. With a donation of about 40,000 US dollars from WHO which led the way and others following later, the little orphanage is now a commercial farm with over 225 acres of farmland planted with maize, wheat, groundnut and vegetables. It has cattle which provide meat and milk and poultry; all to enhance the health and welfare of the children.
Dr. Samba is reported as saying then," We are doing what we preach by promoting health through poverty reduction" when he visited the Mother of Peace in Mutoko on the seventh time to see the transformation that has taken place. It is this example that has spread to many member states of the African Region and only a few will doubt that this example by Dr Samba and his staff is worthy of emulation.
"We are very privileged that an institution as big as WHO chose us out of all the Orphanages in Ghana to offer us such a big help'', Mrs. Yeboah, Mother of the Home read out as she welcomed dignitaries to the commissioning of the bathhouse.
The transformation that has taken place at the Bawjiase Orphanage in the last two years is quite tremendous. As if by cue, many individuals and organizations have since come to the aid of the Home. The Rotary Club of Ring Road Central last year commissioned a multi- million cedi water project which serve the Home and the community around. In addition, two individuals and an organization are building three family unit houses with modern amenities to solve the accommodation problems of the Home.
With 10 mothers and 124 children aged between 2 weeks and 17 years, the Orphanage is now facing problems with accommodation. "The block which is nearing completion will house the babies", Mrs. Yeboah beamed with happiness as she took the WCO team around to meet carpenters who are building cots for the babies.
The list of benefactors is tall. The Hairdressers and Beauticians Association now comes every four months to cut the hair and nails of the children. The Nurse's Group comes often to see to the health needs of the children while staff of the WCO, philanthropists and beauty queens like Miss Ghana has come with gifts of clothing, food and toiletries for the children.
Dr. Samba is quoted as saying on a visit to Mutoko in February 2001 that, "Poor health traps the poor, and poverty keeps them in poor health, we are proud to be making a difference in Mutoko". It is really a joy to see the transformation that has taken place at the Bawjiase Orphanage in just two years and WHO is indeed proud to be part of the success story of Bawjiase Orphanage.