Six-year old Belkis* has had a difficult start to life. Her parents passed away shortly after her birth and her aunt took on the responsibility of raising Belkis.
Unfortunately, Belkis’ aunt was unable to care for her and asked another woman to look after her. However, after a few months living with her new guardian, something terrible and truly tragic happened to her. Belkis arrived home late from the store. As punishment, the woman poured boiling water on her.
The result of the punishment was devastating. Her body, all the way from her hip to her knee, was badly burned. Her guardian left Belkis to suffer. Fortunately, neighbours discovered the incident and reported it to the police.
Implementing a protection plan
The woman was immediately arrested, and the local community contacted GOAL’s team in Ethiopia to take care of Belkis and implement a long-term protection plan.
“We were heartbroken when we learned about the incident. The child was severely burned. We took her to a hospital and tried to help her to recover both physically and mentally. GOAL’s team was regularly visiting Belkis in the hospital, and we tried to let her know that she is not alone,” Degu Girma, GOAL’s Deputy Regional Programme Manager, says.
Thankfully, after three months of medical care and support, Belkis recovered from the burns and started to walk and interact again. GOAL’s team worked tirelessly, but unsuccessfully, with local authorities to find a suitable home for Belkis. Children Cross Connection (CCC), a local NGO, is now caring for Belkis and providing her with safe housing, food, medical and psychological support.
While her physical wounds have healed the incident has left lasting scars on Belkis.
“She was shy and suspicious of adults due to the damage inflicted on her,” Gedion Phylipos, Programme Coordinator at CCC, says.
Regaining her childhood
Thankfully, with the loving care and support provided by staff at CCC, Belkis is regaining trust in adults and those blessed with the responsibility to look after her. She’s also finally starting to enjoy her childhood again.
“Through time she started to play with other children in the compound and she started to make friends. Now she is playing and interacting with people, and she is mentally recovering from the situation” Gedion says.
The woman who abused Belkis has been prosecuted and sentenced to prison. Meanwhile, Belkis has started to go to school. She’s enjoying class and says she wants to be a teacher when she grows up.
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*Belkis’ name has been changed in this story to protect her identity.