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Aid worker who rescued starving Nigerian ‘witch’ boy re-creates their viral photo a year later

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A year ago, a little boy accused of being a witch was left to die on the streets of Nigeria.

The jarring photo was unforgettable.

The boy, about 2 at the time, stands on a dirt road, holding a piece of cracker in one hand, as Anja Ringgren Lovén, a Danish aid worker, gives him a sip of water from a plastic bottle. The boy had been homeless for months, skeletal, naked and nearly dead.

Loven, who was on a mission to rescue abandoned children accused of being  witches, posted the picture, immediately prompting thousands of dollars in donations — and a global outcry.

Today, the toddler is no longer alone on the streets.

Shocking photos of starving ‘witch’ toddler inspire massive donations

Last week, exactly a year after she met the boy she called Hope, Lovén posted a new picture to her Facebook page — a re-creation of the first one.

The boy stands on a dirt road, holding a few pieces of cracker in one hand, as Lovén gives him a sip of water from a plastic bottle. This time, though, he's carrying a small backpack and wearing a checkered, button-up shirt, red pants and white sneakers — and is on his way to the first day of school.

“A rescue mission that went viral, and today it's exactly 1 year ago the world came to know a young little boy called Hope,” Lovén wrote. (Efforts to reach her Tuesday were unsuccessful.)

The new picture, posted side by side with the haunting image from a year ago, has been shared widely.

In 2011, Lovén left her job as a store manager in Denmark and traveled to Africa, where she spent three months as a relief worker. The following year, she started the African Children's Aid Education and Development Foundation, a nonprofit that rescues children who have been abandoned by their families because of superstitious beliefs.

“We work on the human nature that every child in the world has the right to food and education, and to live a dignified life,” Lovén told the Huffington Post.

Belief in witchcraft is widespread in parts of Africa, according to United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). In 2010, the agency warned that a growing number of adults and children were being accused of witchcraft, leading to killings and shunning.

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Those most at risk, UNICEF noted, were boys who displayed a “solitary temperament, physical deformities or conditions such as autism.”

“Many social and economic pressures, including conflict, poverty, urbanization and the weakening of communities, or HIV/AIDS, seem to have contributed to the recent increase in witchcraft accusations against children,” UNICEF Regional Child Protection Adviser Joachim Theis said. “Child witchcraft accusations are part of a rising tide of child abuse, violence and neglect, and they are manifestations of deeper social problems affecting society.”

In 2010, a mother from Akwa Ibom in southeast Nigeria cast out her daughter and two sons, believing they had used black magic to kill their siblings, CNN reported.

Over the past year, Lovén has posted several pictures and videos of Hope. The boy has been living with several other children in an orphanage run by Lovén and her husband, David Umem, in Eket in Akwa Ibom.

One video posted last week shows Hope sitting on the floor with Lovén's son, mimicking some of the older boy's mannerisms.

Another video shows Hope making goofy faces as he eats a piece of bread with some Nutella.

Peter Holley contributed to this report. 


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