Featured Photo credit: un.org

‘…Children are innocent and especially vulnerable. Children are less equipped to adapt or respond to conflict. They are the least responsible for conflict, yet suffer disproportionately from its excesses. Children are truly blameless victims of conflict. Moreover, children represent the hopes and future of every society; destroy them and you have destroyed a society.’ Excerpt from Millennium lecture—Innocent victims: protecting children in times of conflict by Olara A. Otunnu Under-Secretary-General Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict organized by Save the Children Wednesday, 20 October 1999 London
 

 

I remember Saleh. Saleh was 16months, about a year older than Falmata. He had this disease called Abdominal tuberculosis. Just like Falmata, he didn’t witness the peak of the conflict because he was still in his mother’s womb when his parents were displaced, but unlike Falmata, Saleh never knew his Father; father and mother were separated in the process of running for survival. Over two years now, Saleh’s mother had not seen or heard from her husband, whether killed or displaced in another man’s land, no one could tell. While Falmata’s family were able to return to their home town, Saleh’s mother could not risk returning to hers which still witnesses isolated attacks till today. With Saleh, they both remain internally displaced persons in a neighbouring state.
They went through the trying phase of total dependence for food and other welfare. Because of limited food supply, Saleh was forced to embrace malnutrition and wrestle with infections from unhygienic food and water supply, poor ventilation and so on. Too frequently, Saleh’s mother remembered the gruesome killings in her head and couldn’t keep her mind away from those horrific flashes of post-traumatic stress symptoms. Saleh, to her, was her nemesis! Born into conflict, raised through malnutrition and now suffering from an infectious disease borne out of the wreckage of the conflict.

 

Infectious Disease Borne Out Of The Wreckage Of The Conflict.
Falmata was always on my mind. I was very happy she was discharged from hospital, but importantly she could see again. Sometime in late February, not so long after Falmata was discharged, I started having this turbulent urge to see Falmata. I spoke with my lead about helping me get through to Falmata’s village but I was told it was not advisable for a foreigner to go that farther away from the main town into the villages, even though this whole town and its suburbs have not witnessed any major attack for two years. I thought one day she would come for follow up at the hospital. Barely twenty four hours after I was told it would be difficult to see my dear Falmata, her mother brought her to the hospital. What a coincidence! Perhaps her mother just brought her for check up? I thought for whatever reason, it was an opportunity to say ‘Hello’ to an alma of a girl, but I was soon shocked with what my eyes saw. It was like Falmata was almost giving up the ghost, her breathing wasn’t fast, it was racing at jet’s speed. Her eyes back to square one with serious infection, she couldn’t even open them. Her body was as hot as coke and grossly matted with reddish rash—Falmata had just been infected with complicated measles, its worse case scenario, with severe pneumonia. My heart was broken! I helped Falmata away from her mother and bundled her into the emergency room.

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Like Ummi, the sun rose on Falmata.
Over the next ten days, Falmata was managed closely in Isolation. Her breathing soon became normal and rashes started disappearing from her body. She breastfed like she had been hungry for days and smiled like it was her happiest. This day, she received a life immunisation against measles and perhaps an immunization to survive any adversity. This day, my dear Falmata and her mother went home full of joy. I hope to never see them back at the emergency room again.

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Read The First Part Of Falmata’s Story Here

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