Sylvie, who never
knew her mother outside of the womb, is a happy healthy young girl. Had
she not been primarily in our care these past 5 ½ month, everyone
agrees she would not have lived beyond 2 months. Weighing in
at 15lb 6 oz (7kg), she sits up and loves the Jolly Jumper on loan from
the MAF pilots in Chad. As we have said before, she adds much life and
joy to our home. Not only so, but caring for her has been an education
for us, so that we in turn can better help others. Good thing, too,
because as news of her success story spreads, many other cases are
coming out of the woodwork. To wit:
Chikina’s wife died 6
days after giving birth. (Not the same Chikina whose death we wrote
about a couple months ago.) Soon afterward, he came to us to see what we
could do to help keep his son alive. As it turns out, Chikina’s
sister, who had given birth just a few days previously, had already
started nursing the boy along with her own. Since they already had
someone who could nurse the child, we advised them to: 1) feed
Chikina’s sister well so that she could nurse both boys. (They seem to
have been underwhelmed by the wisdom of this particular piece of
advice.) 2) We told them not to give the baby the contaminated
water which Kwong tradition says is absolutely essential. (They say that
failure to observe this tradition will cause infertility in adulthood.)
They were again skeptical of our supposed wisdom, so we compromised and
made a rehydration solution with sterile water, salt and sugar for them
to use. 3) And finally, and most successfully, with the help of
Sylvie’s uncle Tranquil, we taught them how to milk a goat to
supplement the nursing. One of us checks on the family almost
daily to encourage them, keep them motivated and on track. At 3 weeks
the 2 boys weighed in at 6lb 13oz and 7lb 4oz. (As you may know, infant
formula and bottles require way more sterilization technique, and way
more money than African village people have.)
a happy and relatively healthy boy , crawling around and pulling himself
up to stand. They say he looked as good as Sylvie does now. That was one
year ago. Now, at 18 months he has declined in weight to only 9 lb 7 oz
(4.3kg) and has an upper arm circumference of 80mm. 115mm is considered
The problem seems to be that at 6 months Noah never made the
transition to eating porridge and other solid foods.
His mother continued
to breast feed him almost exclusively to the present. Dysentery wiped
out any reserve that he might have had left. The family didn’t have
money to take him to the clinic, after several years of poor harvest, so
our friend Tabitha used her own money to do so twice. When the situation
had become very serious, she brought Noah to our attention to see what
we could do. That was just over a week ago.
the son of André, a blind man. André and his petite
wife also have an 11 year-old daughter named Diane. They had 4 other
children after her birth and before Daayin was born, all of whom died.
So when this little guy came along, we helped them with food and medical
needs to be sure that he lived. Although André and his wife are good
hard workers, it’s difficult for a blind man and his frail wife to
make ends meet. Hunger and sickness are their constant companions. Now,
at 2 years of age, Daayin has never walked because his legs are too
week. He, too, is breastfeeding and drinking only porridge (almost no
protein or vitamins). Weighing in at 16lb 8oz (7.5kg), he may be better
off than Noah, but he is still definitely malnourished.
We aren’t nutritional experts, but by following the recipes,
regimens, and advice of those who are, we have been trying to help these
two boys. Both mothers are now receiving a can of enriched porridge mix
every couple days to prepare: Millet flour, peanut powder, peanut oil,
sugar, milk and salt – all ingredients that can be locally obtained,
and therefore reproducible. After just a few days the boys eyes are
brighter and they both seem to be stronger. Post
script: This morning, just 12 hours after writing this update, Noah’s
strength was gone. He passed into the hands of his Eternal Father.
Another child dies. We don’t know if he died from the
malnutrition, or from his taking 10x the amount of antibiotic as the
clinic staff instructed his parents to give him.
died 2 days ago. He
was just 6 months old. We never met him or his family, and only heard
their story yesterday after the child had been buried. Apparently his
mother became pregnant when Nayju was only 4 months old. Kwong tradition
stipulates that you must not nurse a baby if you are pregnant. They say
that the breast milk is tainted. So she just stopped nursing him
altogether, but being as young as he was, he was not yet ready for or
accustomed to porridge, and he was not given milk. So he just wasted
away, and a last minute trip to the traditional healer was, not
surprisingly, to no avail.
Each of these stories occurred these past 2 weeks.
As I walked
through the village to go offer condolences to Noah’s parents, I
couldn’t help but think that for each of these stories which came to
my attention, there are probably 10 others which didn’t. Our eyes are
being opened to yet another realm of Kwong society where basic knowledge
and diligence can make a huge difference. It has all the hallmarks of a
new ministry – a ministry for which we have precious little time to
offer, but which would be a great opportunity for someone who speaks
French and who might wish to join us here in Chageen. And just to be
clear, the challenge is not just saving the odd baby here and there. It
is nothing less than rolling back the lies from the pit of hell which
over the centuries have so thoroughly corrupted this society that
what ought be one of the safest and most secure places – a baby in her
mother’s arms – has become one of the most dangerous.
in the Jolly Jumper
son: Goat’s milk helps nourish this motherless 11 day-old. His name
will be given later after they are sure he’ll survive.
the goat for Chikina’s son. Milking a goat while it is standing up
makes a good picture, but as the goats really don’t like the
operation, pinning them to the ground is much more practical.
– 18 months
at 2 ½ months and Daayin at 21 months – note they are
essentially the same size.
lies Noah. In a year or two, nobody will be really sure where his grave
is. In decade or so, somebody will build a house over it, or tether
their cows over it.