The first woman came into our lives through the Gender Based Violence program. Her husband beat her so badly that he broke her leg. Then he kept her at home and prevented her or anyone else from seeking care for her. The broken leg became infected, then gangrenous. Finally she was taken to the hospital, where she stayed for more than one week, during which time apparently no one from the hospital treated her or cleaned her wound. I saw a photo of the bed she was left sleeping on, which was soaked in fluids from her bed. She was left alone in a room, in terrible pain, with no treatment for the infection in her leg and little pain medication. When the hospital staff saw the police and GBV team on their way to the woman's room, they rushed to bandage her leg. It had been too late to save the leg even before she reached the hospital, and this pregnant mother of four had her leg amputated last week. The GBV Coordinator has been trying to intervene with the family and in-laws to care for her and her children, but while they look for money for a hospital bill and food for the patient and for her children back at home, the woman is hungry in the hospital, which doesn't have food services for patients. Her husband is on the run, and the police are looking for him.
The second woman I met in Nyambogo on Tuesday. The Mama Maisha team was there to walk from the village center to the nearest health clinic, but before we set out, our Maternal Health Advocates brought us a woman who delivered locally two weeks ago. The baby was very healthy, but she has a birth defect which seems to have fused her elbows and her forearms are tiny. The mother was at a loss what to do. Grace, the Mama Maisha Coordinator, is friends with the hospital physio therapist, who agreed to examine the baby, so we gave the mother a ride to Shirati and Grace accompanied her to the hospital. Amazingly, this was the second baby George had seen in two days with the exact same birth defect. They have to wait until the babies are six months old, and a surgeon will perform the operations. Now this mother has six months to find the money for surgery and a hospital stay and physical therapy for goodness knows how long.
The third woman came to our attention through our friend Stephen. We have visitors from Canada this week who have been doing home improvements for vulnerable families in the villages around Shirati. Their schedule for today was to go build a new mud hut for a very sick widow with HIV and two children. Their idea was to build a house that the children could live in even should their mother die. Last evening we got word that the woman died, leaving her children as orphans and virtually homeless, since the funeral preempts the building of a new house before the Canadians leave on Saturday.
Life in East Africa is not easy, but for women, the burden of illness and poverty is multiplied by the effects on their children. There are many good men here, but cultural traditions often leave mothers alone carrying the burdens alone. There have been some good stories this week, but these three mothers have weighed on my heart. There is nothing we can do to change their circumstances, but we can try to help share the burdens.
It looks like the orphaned children will get their house tomorrow, thanks to the Canadian friends, but the 14-year-old boy will be the head of household now.
We don't know the actual costs yet, but baby Bibi Peter will need financial support for her surgery, probably around $500 within the next six months.
The now-single mother of four (almost five) is on her way home to a new life without a husband and without a leg. The hospital bill will be about $200, and unfortunately, their poverty will only worsen with the absence of a husband and the presence of a disability. She has been doing a business of collecting and selling firewood, but this is impossible while on crutches. Training for a new career as a seamstress or doing hair would be about $100.
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