Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

African grandmother hails HIV aid

Joe Costello met a woman being helped to deal with HIV on a trip to Mozambique

A grandmother with HIV has revealed how she is living a healthy life in Mozambique as a direct result of money from Irish taxpayers.

Zadia Marcelino was weak, in agony and painfully thin until her plight was spotted by volunteers with an African community action group.

Kurula, which is funded by Irish Aid through the Government's development fund, transformed the 42-year-old, who is now well enough to run a small farm and raise her five-year-old grandson.

She told junior minister Joe Costello that life is so good after the intervention she now helps others tackle the killer virus.

"When I was sick I was very bad," Ms Marcelino said as the pair sat outside her straw hut down a sandy dirt track and surrounded by coconut trees.

"I got really thin. I have been on the programme for three years and now I am doing extremely well. I have a lot of land and I'm able to grow extra produce from my farm and I go to the market to sell it. So I'm in a really nice place right now."

More than 6,000 people have been helped since 11 community-based support groups were formed in the Inhambane region in 2008. Some 400 are being supported this year. Volunteers, who also usually have HIV, find sufferers in desperate need and teach them how to get access to health facilities, take treatment, grow food and cook.

Kevin Connors, of International Relief and Development which oversees the scheme, said the 500,000 euro funding a year from Irish Aid is making an impact and achieving results. "Literally lives are being saved by what's happening, the impact of this was phenomenal," he said.

Mr Costello, minister for trade and development, was at the end of a five-day trip to the country when he met Ms Marcelino to see first hand the work of Ireland's aid programme.

"She was someone very sick and now she's in the pink of health," he said. "She's healthy, happy with life, and getting on with it and helping other people. It shows good quality treatment, support and food has made a difference to people."

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