Last week Open Arms welcomed six new babies – in six days. Ranging in age from about one and a half to a few months old, we thought we would take a minute to introduce them to you.
Gladson is the oldest. He has big brown eyes, long lashes and confidently toddles around. He is social and interacts with the other children but I have yet to see him smile. He comes from Balaka, 100 km away, where he was being raised by his 9 year old sister, Memory. His parents had passed away and Memory was the only one willing to care for him. When you ask him where Memory is, he looks around, pointing in a general direction, knowing that even though he is at Open Arms, Memory can’t be too far away.
Muliena is an orphan from a family of four children along the Mozambique border in Chikwawa. After they lost their mother to Tuberculosis their grandmother was struggling to care for the children. A Child Protection Officer felt it was best for Muliena to be moved to Open Arms. At four months old, she is slightly malnourished. The Matrons are optimistic that she will settle in well and quickly put on weight.
Madalitso, meaning ‘blessings from God’, was abandoned by his mother in Thyolo. He was found naked near the market and taken to the Social Welfare Department. The community hinted that the mother might be suffering from mental instability. At about five months old, he seems to be doing well but the Matrons are eager for him to put on some weight and start smiling.
Boyce is two months old. His mother died and like so many orphans in Malawi he was being cared for by his grandmother. He was only 3.2 kgs when he arrived and had suffered from chicken pox. He is already gaining weight and seems to be settling in well.
Calista is currently at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital where they are running tests to make sure she is in good health. Her mother, who we think also suffers from mental instability, left the baby girl with the grandmother who has been struggling to care for her. Calista is from the crowded nearby township of Soche, and at three months, seems healthy and happy.
And finally there is Emmanuel. Emmanuel lies quietly on the floor, not crying or making any noise. When I reach down to pick him up, I am astounded at how little he is. At over a year old, he is the size of a malnourished 5 month old. His upper arms are the size of my index finger and his skin is loose and wrinkled. His legs are also tiny and he is so light he feels hollow. What is most haunting is that he looks at you with the eyes of a much older child. He looks at you as if he knows he is in poor shape and there is nothing he can do about it. His breathing is deep and laboured, but more than anything, he seems tired.
He was abandoned in the neighbouring town of Limbe along the river and weighed only 4.6 kg. In the four days he has been at Open Arms, he has been given supplementary meals and is already 4.8 kg. Open Arms has seen babies like Emmanuel too many times before, babies who have the same sunken hollow eyes, and seen them thrive after a few weeks at Open Arms. I remember Wyson, most recently, who was so malnourished that he screamed every time he was fed; now he is such a fat and happy baby. The dedicated, loving mothers and professional Matrons will continue to care for Emmanuel and his friends and monitor their progress. If anyone can bring him up to a healthy weight and find the smiling carefree child inside, it’s the amazing staff of Open Arms.
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