….can come a rose
……can come a festering molten cascade of even more shit, littered with dead fish and vomit.
Today is not a good day…..can you tell?
Statistics on incest in Tanzania are hard to obtain as it is, by its very nature, insidious and secret, and most research highlights it as being extensive and massively under-reported in sub-saharan Africa generally. In one-roomed houses, where the whole family usually shares one bed, it is pretty common for people’s first sexual experiences to be with a family member. Anecdotally, some of these are fairly benign, with little impact on the child’s development. Often, though, the consequences are far more serious.
Our last two visits on Friday were to families where the father had raped the daughter.
The ‘rose’ was baby Daniel. His mother, Immaculata, was raped and impregnated at age 13 by her own father who told her he would kill her if she told anyone. She is now back in school, in the top 3 of her class. Her mother and grandmother are bringing up the baby and hope that Imma would will be able to go to college or get a good office job, which neither of them had achieved. Father was in prison for at least a couple of years and we were trying to set up the family with a business so that they could be self-sufficient and not be tempted to have him back in the home on release.
And baby Daniel is chubby, healthy and content. A real rose growing from the shit.
The festering cascade of shit was Neema’s story.
We had started visiting her mother, Catherine, who had five children and had contracted HIV from her husband’s infidelity, before the birth of her youngest twins. He then abandoned her a year ago and no-one knew where he was.
We visited on Friday to discuss setting up a business selling cassava, but also to counsel her as her 9 year old, Neema, had revealed she had been raped by her father on and off for the last 3 years. As Neema had been constantly ill for over a month and was losing weight, Catherine was worried that she might have caught the HIV virus from her father. We took money for transport for the whole family to be tested at the HIV clinic, which would not be open until Monday, but Neema was in such a bad way, just skin and bone, with sunken bloodshot eyes and a racking cough despite being on antibiotics for a week, that we also gave money to get her to the doctor or hospital as soon as possible for treatment.
Palm Sunday – just after the Hosanna choir ( see Jesus is Coming) – I saw Hassan driving through the gate on his day off. He and Josephine came to tell me that Neema had died in the early hours of the morning in hospital. Hassan had come in because she died in Secatoure Hospital and their mortuary is just a pile of bodies thrown on top of each other. He wanted to go and get her and take her to the mortuary at Bugando Hospital ( see Carry On Doctor) where she would be treated with the respect of at least a shared trolley. He took Melkiyad, one of the askaris, to hold her in his arms in the passenger seat.
I spent the morning torn between crying for this little girl’s crap life and early death and being overcome with anger towards the man that did this to her and will probably never have to answer for it now. To say ‘life is hard for the people here’ is like saying Hitler was a bit naughty. It just doesn’t really cover it sometimes.