Danish aid worker Anja Ringgren Loven posted photos of the emaciated little boy, whom she named “Hope,” on Facebook on Jan. 31. Loven had received a tip that Hope, who was no older than 3 years old, was abandoned by his family and left to die in the streets after he was accused of witchcraft.
“When we heard that the child was only 2 to 3 years old, we did not hesitate,” Loven told Huffington Post UK. “A child that young cannot survive a long time alone on the streets. We immediately prepared a rescue mission.”
Loven founded the African Children’s Aid Education and Development Foundation (ACAEDF) three years ago after travelling to Nigeria and being confronted with dozens of children such as Hope, she told the Huffington Post.
Hope was not her first rescue. In 2014, many media outlets reported that ACAEDF had rescued two 8-year-old children who were accused of witchcraft by their family and tortured.
Poverty, the AIDS epidemic and wars have helped fuel the belief in witchcraft in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a 2010 UNICEF report.
According to UNICEF, belief in witchcraft has been exploited by local churches and “pastor-prophets” who charge a fee to rid families of malevolent spirits.
Urban children, especially boys, are most at risk, UNICEF noted.
Children with physical abnormalities or developmental disabilities, such as autism, are also highly vulnerable.
“Children showing any unusual behaviour, for example children who are stubborn, aggressive, thoughtful, withdrawn or lazy, also make up this category,” the report said.
After posting photos of the child online, Loven requested donations to help with his hospital care, including a blood transfusion.
Just two days after making the plea, she reported that she had raised more than one million Danish kroner ($204,333).
“With all the money, we can, besides giving Hope the very best treatment, now also build a doctor clinic on the new land and save many more children out of torture!” she said. “It’s just so great!”
Days after Hope’s rescue, Loven reported that the boy had worms, but was in stable condition.
“He’s a strong little boy. To see him sit and play with my own son is without doubt the greatest experience of my life! I just don’t know how to describe it in words.”
On Feb. 12, Loven posted a photo of Hope looking much more robust, sitting upright with full cheeks.
“Hope is getting so much better. Already gaining a lot of weight and looking so much more healthy. Now we only need him to talk. But that will come naturally when he is out of the hospital and starting his life among all our children.
“Children become stronger together,” Loven wrote.
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