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Starving boy from Eket, Nigeria abandoned ‘for being a witch’ undergoes incredible transformation

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A boy abandoned by his parents who thought he was a witch has undergone a dramatic transformation.

Photos of a young boy called Hope shocked and appalled people the world over when they were taken at the beginning of 2016.

They showed the severely malnourished child being fed water by Anja Ringgren Lovén, the founder of charity DINNødhjæl.

Hope had been left on the streets of Eket, Nigeria by his parents, who believed he was a witch.

“Hope was in a terrible condition when we rescued him,” Anja said.

“He was seriously malnourished and had multiple diseases.

“The first two weeks he was hospitalised he was in a critical condition.

“We didn’t know if he would survive or not.”

Hope was taken in by Anja, who has helped hundreds of abandoned children over the last eight years.

Since 2016 the young boy has been looked after and educated by the charity, and has undergone an incredible transformation.

Anja said: “Hope is very healthy and loves to go to school.

“He is very intelligent and his passion is art and to be creative.

“He is extremely talented at art and many of his paintings have even been sold.

“We call him our little Picasso.”

Hope has never met his parents and the organisation has been unable to track down any of his relatives.

Despite his grim start in life, the young boy is now able to look at the photo of him when he was found.

“He will often point at it and smile as if he is proud,” Anja, who is also an ambassador for the Universal Peace Federation International, said.

“But I know it’s not about pride. Children are born with the ability to forgive.

“Children are born with no prejudices. It is when children are taught what to think and not how to think, we fail as a society.

“Do we raise Hope to hate his parents that abandoned him, accused him of being a witch and left him alone on the street to die?

“No, of course not.

“Superstition is caused by a lack of structural education, extreme poverty, religious fanaticism and corruption.

“No society can develop if its people are deprived of basic human rights such as access to education, health care, and social protection.”

Accusations of witchcraft often stem from death or illness in the family, crop failures, employment problems or infertility.

Children are in turn made into scapegoats and branded as witches.

They are then typically treated like outcasts by members of their village.

Anja and her team have rescued more than 300 children and she currently cares for 76 kids in the largest children’s centre in West Africa.

Among them are girls as young as nine who have been tortured, sexually abused and even buried alive before escaping their horrific fates.

She added: “Education is the most powerful investment in a society and the greatest weapon against ignorance.

“To solve a problem you need human interaction and communication. Not judgment.

“We are very professional in our work. We need to help the villagers and change their mindset.

“We enlighten the villagers through advocacy programs in rural areas.”

By Katabella Roberts & Milo Boyd