Saturday, 6 October 2012

You Never Stand Alone

I could see right through the frail woman’s pain. I felt it. Those around her wailed but she didn’t. Instead, she stared at us, she stared past us, her eyes searching through the crowd, t in the area,Her son was gone and never coming back, but even so, she was not not for anyone in particular but nonetheless searching without necessarily registering our presence; this was a long, awkward and extremely sad moment when nothing said or done could help ease the situation. She tightly held on to the lifeless body of her little boy that lay on her laps.

I knew her little boy, 5years old and a bit tall for his age. I was sure I had seen the boy once or twice before, esssearching without as we had some grounds work done for the measurement and digging up of the borehole in the eastern part of Wargadud town. In fact, I could have sworn I had seen the child earlier that morning, or not. But either way, I either way, i  was equally saddened to learn of his demise, and especially the fact that he succumbed to malaria. Some villagers said it was a complicated case of typhoid, others argued that it couldn’t have been typhoid since it wasn’t common in the area. A stout man in the furthest corner of the now mammoth crowd authoritatively pointed out to measles. This was of course a sad situation, not only was a child dead, but also his cause of death was subject to debate by villagers who were not experts in any healthcare related field. Then that the arguments took a different direction. Blame on the government and on the private organizations that pledged aid to the community started. Negligence was the main focus.

The villagers demanded to know why they were not getting ample healthcare and medical attention as the rest of the country and its citizens were. Their fury was so eminent, but they were justified. This is an area that is home for close to a thousand families, including its surroundings, yet it is served by a district hospital with one doctor, who is always on call, a handful of overworked nurses and a community health worker. To add onto that, Mobile health clinics from private organizations is a concept widely speculated in the area but yet to materialize, due to lack of funding in one way or the other.

So who could blame these angry villagers? They had just lost one of their own, a bridge to the next generation, an innocent child; all due to improper health care. I say improper because whatever the cause of death, it was clear that under the right circumstances it could have been prevented. Sadly, the death toll is still on the rise. Wargadud is yet to receive proper attention as far as health care services are concerned.

I walked away, but not before stealing one last glance at the grieving mother. Her son was gone and was never coming back, but even so, she didn’t stand alone in this. Her fellow villagers, obviously tired of somewhat begging for better healthcare services day in day out in the area, stood by her in this. Even a bicycle can’t stand alone…it is two tired….

Friday, 28 September 2012

Every Child.............

Every Child Is Entitled  To A Decent Childhood,

No Child Has To Ever Go Hungry,

No Parent Has To Ever Burry Their Child,

A Child's Best Memories Shapes Their Future,

Let Us All Safeguard A Child's Innocence For As Long As We Possibly Can....

They, The Children, Are Humble, And Beautiful Citizens Of The World We Envision.

They Are Our Tomorrow.


What's In A Language?

 ‘The team which handles the pressure best, carries the day’- Imran Khan-

I have no idea how the above relates to the following story, but I thought I would take a chance as I have always wanted to use that quote. Wait, it’s not really about Imran Khan’s quote, but about Imran himself. I have always watched this American born- Indian actor’s movies, that is despite the fact that I do not understand a single word in Hindi. There is more to communication than the use of words.

Back to the topic at hand, following my previous post, it was one week later since we arrived in Elwak. Yes, we made it to Elwak, but without our phones, liquid cash and the one laptop that we had carried along with us. We had been attacked by a group of very young men called mashiftas, who had guns, pangas and a couple of ripped up phones obviously from previous attacks. None of the people onboard (in our lorry of course) had been injured in any way as we had all co-operated. By injured, I mean there was no serious bodily harm inflicted on any of us, except for our first driver who suffered a swollen left cheek after being hit by the butt of a gun.

So a week later, after having settled down and composing myself emotionally, I was ready to engage in community activities. On this particular day; a Saturday, the lower primary children did not go to school, and most spent their afternoon time walking not far away distances to fetch water.(Our organization had plans of completing a bore hole near one of the villages in the outskirts of the town.) From a distance, carrying Jerry cans and chuckling, some shouting, others singing, I saw the children go to fetch water. They were oblivious of my staring. Some were bear foot out of choice, others not, but nonetheless they all seemed to be in unison in the quest for bringing back water. I half walked, half ran and they did not notice me approaching them until I was right behind them.
For a split second, silence took over in this little crowd, and then the murmurs started. They exchanged glances and some laughed at my somewhat awkward intrusion.
‘Madam Arkam’ they greeted me and that was all I understood. Every other word that was directed to me was done so in a bit of Swahili-which I responded to-but the greatest percentage of the conversation was done in their mother tongue. I still acknowledged by nodding approvingly. I knew they were welcoming me, or telling me histories of some of the homes we passed by, or better still telling me about this town, their families, parents, and so on. I knew this because I chose to believe they were talking to me and not about me.( I am particularly good at massaging my ego).

One of the boys who were obviously the trailblazers of this ‘journey’ nudged me to get my attention, and pointed towards an elderly man who sat a stone throw away from where we were. This particular boy went on and on to explain something, occasionally pointing at the elderly man’s leg and playing dead. At first I thought it was a laughing matter until I realized none of the kids was laughing at this animated story, so my building smile faded away. It was when the boy mentioned Nairobi and then Kenyatta Hospital that I safely deduced that he must have been telling me the elderly man was or had been sick and had been admitted at Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi. ‘Pole sana’ I said in reply to the boy, as I helped up a girl who had tripped just in front of me.

As we walked on, in the scorching sun, I couldn’t help but realize that this was an opportunity for me to assuage these young children’s desire for knowledge. They obviously had questions for me; where I was from, what I had come to do in this town and how long I would be staying and so forth; but more conspicuously, was the look of confusion  in all those innocent faces  as to why I neither spoke nor understood their language, and vice versa. We nonetheless fetched water and ‘shared more stories’; laughter included.

I understood them and they understood me. We were on the same team. We communicated…th; but most importantly, all those innocent faces registerde for knowledge. They obviously had questions for me, where i n admitted at Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi. 'ckhen the boy mentioned Nairobi and then Kenyatta Hospital that i

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Very Start

We had a puncture, or so I thought. No, wait, it was a stop over in the middle of nowhere. I wasn't sure. I had slept through the whole journey and from the look of things I still had a lot of sleeping to do- for the next two days. My back was aching and my legs were numb. I had been sleeping on the lorry's middle seat for the six hours since we left Nairobi and it was time for me to exchange position with my colleague.

The stopover had been a long time coming. I jumped from the lorry, and gladly found a bush where I could take a leak.We were on our way to Elwak in Mandera Central, North Eastern Kenya.

Though I couldn't tell the exact location of our stop over, I knew instinctively that we still had a long journey ahead of us. In the height of insecurity and rising death toll in the area we were headed, I could only pray. Earlier that evening my mom had seen me off to eastleigh; where my workmates and I boarded this very lorry that had among other things the relief food that we were going to supply. The sight of our mode of transport was enough to make any mother shed tears. She literally tried talking  me out of pursuing the journey. I did understand how she felt then, but I just couldn't bring myself to turn and head back home with her. It pains me to date that I put her through such emotional torture,uncertainty and worst of all fear of whether or not she would ever see me alive again.

I had been sure that all will be well;that I would come home not so many days later and surprise her. I was confident. Still lost in my trail of thoughts and out in the warm wind, I heard gunshots from a distance, then  approaching,there were glaring head lights from what seemed like a convoy of lorries. All the confidence that I radiated earlier in the evening while with my mom, eluded me. Ladies and gentle men,as panic stricken as I was, I followed my colleagues and we hid in the nearest bush. We couldn't fathom who the approaching were,nor couldn't we climb back into our lorry for two reasons. First our driver and his turn boy and another guy who I later came to learn was the second driver(again please note this was one very long journey that kind of reminded me the use of horses in medieval times that took days for people to reach their destination) had disengaged the head of the lorry from the rest of its body in order to tightening it up.Secondly, due to the panic, it was easier and safer to hide and lie down as opposed to jumping into the lorry.

A second, third and a series of gunshots burst into the air, with each subsequent shot growing louder and seemingly near. I died........or not, but I know I did because at that very moment I lost the strength to pray and worse still I couldn't feel my heartbeat anymore, let alone move a muscle.....................