Another baby boy arrived at TTL yesterday, another child orphaned shortly after birth. Born on November 7, his mother died on December 8, likely from complications of HIV/AIDS.
Like many people in Mokhotlong, she died amidst a sad and troublesome dearth of information, after seeming healthy and then having “a headache for three days.”
From a Western perspective, it seems ridiculous when death is explained away as the result of a sudden ailment as seemingly innocuous as a “headache,” or “chest pain,” but here it happens all the time.
In Mokhotlong, those reasons seem more common than anything else in explaining death. Among our clients who have lost one parent or both, undiagnosed ailments are at the top of the list of killers, while “cancer” and “heart attack” are almost unheard of.
Kabelo, the little boy now in TTL’s care, was brought here by his maternal grandfather, an old man who is already taking care of two other children with the help of his sister. They are another example of the elderly taking care of the young, with the middle generation wiped out by AIDS.
While Kabelo’s grandfather and great aunt seem to love him, they don’t have the resources or energy to provide the constant care a newborn needs – especially with two older children to look after.
Thankfully, Kabelo seems pretty healthy, and a temporary stint at the safe-home will serve him well as his grandfather figures out the best care situation for him. He’s a cute little guy, born heavy for Basotho children at more than 7 pounds, and is eating well.
The only sad part about his health is that, in a way, it is yet another indication of how tragic his mother’s death was, as it is proof that she was breastfeeding him just fine until the sudden onslaught of her “headache.”
Her death adds Kabelo to the already staggeringly high number of orphans in Lesotho. TTL will do what it can to help, but we can’t replace Kabelo’s mother.
With death, it’s always hard not to ask why. It’s harder still when the only available answer is “a headache for three days.”
The TTLF Fellow is a representative of the North American organisation The Tiny Lives Foundation. Based for one year in Mokhotlong, Lesotho, the TTLF Fellow serves in an administrative support capacity for the Basotho charity TTL.