23 May 2012


Only much poorer.


This article in the newspaper "El País" refers to the famine in Sahel, from which we have selected the following paragraphs:
"In Arr, the local head doctor, Ba Saidou Amar, carries out an "appetite test" on Ibrahim Abdullay Sy, a 16 month old boy with severe malnutrition to see which is the best way to treat him. His mother, Kadia Mamadou Sy, doesn’t appear to be very concerned but the doctor is certainly indignant: "There are women who have maybe 300 or 400 cows and their children are undernourished, how can this be possible?", he asks himself whilst looking at the baby’s mother. His mother replies: "God is the one who should be taking care of the children".
"There are villages worth millions in cows where there are children suffering from malnutrition, why? This attitude must be changed", Doctor Amar insists.
In Mauritania, most parents don’t see their children’s malnutrition as something bad that needs treating, they see it as something misfortunate which they are not responsible for and which is best kept hidden from the outside world. If they do happen to ask for help from the village healer or the grandmother the lucky ones are given remedies which do not harm the child but in some cases they are given advice which can have harmful effects, such as stopping breastfeeding the child.
Back in Sélibaby, the capital of the Guidimakha region, Djeinaba Diallo, the director of the ACH headquarters gives a graphic description: "The mother of a severely undernourished little girl didn’t want to to take her to the centre. We went to her house and told her: 'If you don’t bring her in she will die'. The mother responded: 'Well, my father has died, my mother is no longer here, I have seven children and I am pregnant: if this one dies, she dies'".

We can’t possibly imagine what it’s like to be an African mother who sees her children die, nor can we put ourselves into the mental shoes of the mothers from the article in "El País". What appears to be indifference could be a mask to hide their deep pain, as if they are shielding themselves against the life they have to endure...

Unfortunately these types of articles reinforce the opinion of many people that African mothers "love their children less" or "they don’t love them like we love ours". Of course this helps to ease the conscience of those of us in the Western world, "they don’t love their children like we do", "they have lots of children", "Africa is overpopulated", "the best thing for African children is for them to be adoped by a Western family"...

From our own experience we would like to show the other side of the story.

There are mothers who, despite living in dreadful circumstances, try with all their might to give their children a present and a future. We have met some of these mothers during our selection process for the new intake of babies at the Abugida nursery school.

Stories of extreme poverty and adversity with a common denominator: the love for their children, regardless of how they may have been conceived in some cases (by no means are we trying to enter into a debate on whether children conceived by rape should be loved or not, we just want to show examples of true and unusual stories in the press).

H. is a blind mother with two daughters, the second as a result of being raped. H rocks her baby lovingly whilst she breastfeeds her. The girl’s father is a "good person" who took H into his home when she was widowed and left on the street with her other daughter. He took advantage and raped her. When he discovered H. was pregnant he threw her out onto the street.

A. was working as a housemaid and the son of the family raped her and infected her with HIV.

M. has the same story as A. Raped and infected with HIV, she had twins.

D. is the mother of A. who is 14 months. She was also raped. She is deaf.

The rest of the mothers are women with tremendous stories of poverty and solitude.

And they are all African, in this case Ethiopian. It’s time for us to stop portraying African mothers as mothers who love their children "less" than we do. We’ve had enough of the clichés that ease our conscience or make us feel superior. Let’s see if the press can look for some of the many other stories and real events happening every day.

Being poor doesn’t mean that you have less feelings, which is the impression we often seem to get from certain articles and opinions.

Pysiotherapy for Ada, Ghana

Physiotherapy Programme .

The team of physiotherapy teachers from the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB) has already left for the Dangme East Hospital in Ada, Ghana.
They will be developing the next steps in the Physiotherapy Programme we run in the area. This programme is shared between the UIB and Mediterránea. The following people are making this trip: Carlos Moreno Gómez, Inmaculada Riquelme Agullo and Elisa Bosch Donate (coordinator).
They have taken two low frequency electrotherapy machines (TNS), consumables, ointments, etc.

For more information: Facebook

At the Sebeta School

We visited Sebeta where we met the new director and saw the little houses where the children live, the Messi room and the activities in the gym, which is all sponsored by us.
The new director is so much more human than the previous one and she supports us in everything.
With regard to equipment and sanitary conditions, the living quarters are much better than they were before we stepped in although there are still things that need repairing. One of the houses, where some of the boys live, is especially difficult to maintain in good conditions and we have already had to repair the toilet several times.
In general, however, the outcome is positive and it is all much better, particularly since the visit of the Digniteams who installed the new water tank so they always have water available.
The children are cleaner, as well as their beds, thanks to the help of the new laundry staff.
The teachers employed for the Messi room do a great job and they are now there all day long: during the mornings they work in the Messi room with mentally handicapped children who don’t attend the regular classes, children who used to vegetate in their living quarters. There is a girl from the village who is blind and mentally handicapped who also receives physiotherapy from one of the instructors, Kefele.
Her mother has to stop working for part of the day in order to bring the girl so we have decided to offer her some help so that the little girl can keep on attending the Messi.
In the afternoons and on Saturday mornings the Messi room and gym are open to all those who wish to take part.
They have a great time in the gym, releasing loads of energy and showing how their psychomotricity has developed in spite of their deficiencies. We had an especially emotional moment when they told us how happy they are in the gym and the Messi room and asked us why we had chosen to help them.

To summarise, the projects at Sebeta are going well and things are working out with the staff we have employed.

And the children are so much happier than before.

21 May 2012


We have an especially wonderful carer called Nuriya at Abugida school. She wanted to look after Dagem, the 4 year old boy with cerebral palsy who has spent the last school year at Abugida. And she does it brilliantly!
She loves him so much that she even finds it hard to give him to his mother when she comes to collect him. Dagem is really happy, he smiles all the time and his face lights up.
As of July there will be two girls with cerebral palsy at Abugida.
One of them, Tamrawit, had meningitis when she was two months old which left her with cerebral palsy, affecting all four limbs and most probably, seriously affecting her sight. When her father found out about this complication he abandoned Tamrawit and her mother, Ayanalem.
Ayanlem makes a living baking injera bread or washing clothes. Tamrawit is two years old and she needs to be carried on her mothers back, so she will now be able to work in better conditions and Tamrawit will be well looked after and stimulated at Abugida.
The other little girl is called Haymanot and she lives with her mother Meskerem and her father. She is just 15 months old. Haymanot suffers from a condition similar to cerebral palsy which also affects her speech and both arms and legs.
We spoke to Nuriya and told her that two more special needs children would be arriving and she would therefore need some help, we asked her if she thought any of the other staff at Abugida would be suitable to work with her looking after the special needs children. She told us the name of one of the kitchen assistants, well known for her good character and commitment to her work. Nuriya herself would take on the responsibility of looking after these two new girls.
In addition to Tamrawt and Haymanot we also have some children with HIV, a little girl with a sight problem and another girl with a deformed foot which we will attempt to treat as far as we possibly can.
The families of special needs children in the local area are now aware that their children receive priority treatment at Abugida.