“This marriage is over; I can’t watch my child die and not be able to do something”! Tatiana’s mother shouted as she raced towards the corner of the bush where she had kept her clothes and started putting them in a bag. A few minutes later, she ran past her kids and husband in a rush towards the direction of her parent’s home.
Tatiana Wazabua’s parents are both farmers from Akwaja, avillage located inAko Sub Division of Donga MantungDivision, some 250km away from Bamenda. Before the Anglophone crisis, they were doing fairly well as farmers. They had enough to eat and to sell in order to have money to buy other personal needs, food stuffs they could not cultivate and access healthcare. Unfortunately, the Anglophone crisis broke out and put an end to their blissful lifestyle. With the outbreak of the armed conflict, they could no longer live in their home because of frequent gunfire between Non-State Armed groups and the Military in their village. The situation became so intense that they had to seek refuge in bushes. While in their makeshift habitat, life was very tough. It was a question of survival of the fittest. They had no shelter, no potable water, and feeding the family became challenging since they could not go to their farm for fear of being hit by a bullet. Even the little money they had was of no value as they could not find anything to buy. The nearest shop was several miles away and going there was exposing oneself to danger. The bushes were infested with mosquitoes, exposing them to frequent bouts of malaria. These poor living conditions soon took a toll on their
They started noticing that she was getting thinner and thinner; her eyes and cheeks sunken and her stomach protruding. They could not understand what was happening. This went on for several months until they took the child to the Ako District Health Center to seek for medical attention, but there was no improvement due to limited health personnel to handle the situation. After trying out different ways to improve on their child’s health, Titiana’s mother suggested to her husband that they take her to a renowned native doctor, but to her greatest shock her husband vehemently refused. This was the breaking point of their marriage. She did not have the strength to watch her child slowly die amidst her helplessness. She was determined to do whatever it took to save her daughter, even if it meant going to the native doctor which was something she would never have done under normal circumstances. Her husband was totally against this idea. He believed that taking their daughter to the native doctor might aggravate her already fragile state and precipitate her death. Moreover, he did not have the 15000 FCFA that the native doctor was requesting for their daughter’s treatment, as he had spent almost all his savings at the Ako health centre. All he hoped and prayed for was that the few medications they brought back from the health centre will work a miracle and the health of their beloved daughter will be restored.
As every cloud has a silver lining, it was during this trying moment that community agents were carrying out health campaigns in communities, offering education and sensitization and doing consultations. One of them identified Tatiana and set immediately to work as further delay would have cost the little girl’s life. She noticed that Tatiana had bilateral oedema (BOM); on further investigations, she was told the baby has been in this condition for 9 months. This campaign recorded the highest number of severely malnourished children identified during a single campaign (18 in total) with four of them dying in health centers after immediate referrals. It was a gloomy day for the team.
Apart from rampant malnutrition in the community, Malaria is also a killer disease amongst children below five. Out of a total of 600 children consulted, 500 of them tested positive to Malaria and were treated with drugs donated by UNICEF. As for the children diagnosed with Severe Acute Malnutrition with signs like Odema, scanty hair and looking pale yellow in complexion like Tatiana, they were admitted and treatment started immediately. Tatiana was improving by the day and two weeks into treatment she visibly regained her strength and could play, laugh and raise herself from the bed.
Alarmed by the high rates of Malnutrition and Malaria amongst children in the community, the campaign team decided to do a baseline study to find out underlying reasons for the situation. The study revealed that one of the reasons for increasing malnutrition was very high birth rates. For instance, a lady in her late thirties was seen with 14 children and a teenager of 13 had a one-year 3months old child and was 8months pregnant. During their one month stay in the community, the team gathered loads of significant data that will inform future planning and the development of new strategies to provide for the health needs of people in these local communities.
By the time the team was leaving the community, Tatiana was fully recovered. To express their gratitude, community members joined Tatiana’s family to bid the team farewell with appreciation gifts. Tatiana’s father was not only happy for his daughter’s recovery but beamed with joy as his marriage was restored in the process.