Thursday, 5 April 2012

Zenouba the Starfish.

A very unfortunate thing happened a few years ago, on the only day I breastfed my baby in public. Rocco was two weeks old, my husband was still in the oncology ward, and I was hell cranky at the world.

Rocco needed a feed then and there, sitting on a park bench at the bottom of the main street of Leura in the Blue Mountains. Thing about Leura is, busloads of tourists are alighting at any given time. Just as I was doing the only public breastfeeding I will ever do in the world .... a group of Japanese people got off the bus right in front of me and swarmed over to me to take my photo.

Somewhere, in photo albums in Tokyo .. are pictures of a flame-haired chick FURIOUSLY shooing away a group of eager Japanese people. One-handed.

The women over here ... at the clinics and in the fields .. they want their photos taken. Even breastfeeding. (Because breastfeeding is a completely normal thing to do.)

Standing in line for medical attention. Most of these women are pregnant.

                         Tightly wrapped and safe

Holding her baby brother ... there are things going on in this girls life that are not good. Her eyes told me.

Today at the clinic there were so many women getting check-ups, so many children getting measured for signs of malnutrition, it was noisy and hot. I'll never complain about waiting to see a doctor again. (At *least* until the next time I complain about waiting to see a doctor.)

There was a little girl seated next to her mother yesterday, waiting so very patiently. I realised it was not patience, but sickness and fatigue. The children here aren't necessarily better behaved than western kids - they're too tired to misbehave and be naughty. If my 3 year old was here, he'd be running around, robust .... probably trying to climb inside one of the deep water wells that World Vision funded. He would be annoying the hell out of me - all that energy and running around. All that annoying health.

I wonder how this trip will affect my parenting from now on.

The little girl's name is Zenouba. She reminded me of my beautiful niece Billie. I sat there overwhelmed with what I was seeing and hearing. Her mother was visiting the clinic for her, not her baby brother. It is Zenouba who is malnourished and sick. Her mother only realised this last week ... after being taught the signs of malnutrition at that clinic while she was getting her baby weighed. I kept looking at Zenouba's dry legs and feet. Her feet, man. After she half-heartedly played with Rocco's Peppa Pig app on my phone, I held her feet. Computer, in that moment, Zenouba's feet were the most important feet in the world. They were so soft and light. I wanted to take her home to my house and make a bubble bath and wash her feet.

My South Korean mum blogging homie Kim gave Zenouba a lollipop and her face lit up like the sun. We all delighted in her smile. I automatically did what most western mothers do when another child gets given a special treat ... I asked if it was ok that she eat a lolly. My breath caught in my throat and she grabbed at the wrapper, trying to open it. I realised I'd just asked if it was ok if a malnourished child has a fricken lollipop.

Later we watched her eat her Plumpy Nut. I've only cried a few times since I've been here, and this was one of them. Not because of seeing her eat her sustenance that will hopefully save her life, but because it was such a big deal. Everybody was taking photos for their respective news channels and sites and blogs.

BREAKING NEWS: Child eats food!

There's so much more to say. I hope Zenouba survives. Over 400,000 children are malnourished in Niger right now. A lot will die.

Totally channeling Hawkeye from M.A.S.H. Did I think I was a soldier? EYEROLL

Ok I'm putting the call out. If you have written a post about this trip, if you have sponsored a child, if you have donated ... or any other thing you would like to say, please let us all know in this comment section, with some links if you'd like. This blog isn't mine this week, it's everybody's - the power of social media for social good is strong, right here right now. Let's jump on it. Traditional media - where are you? The people of Niger could use a shout-out.

There are blog badges available on the World Vision Australia website HERE

I'm with Kim from Korea and Stephy from Germany on World Vision Germany's website HERE

A donation to the West African food crisis appeal is perfect if you can't sponsor a child at this time. Also perfect if you DO sponsor a child ... it's perfect in any capacity, really. Even just ten bucks. I promise. I promise with my entire Being.

West Africa Food Crisis - Donate now


1 comment:

  1. Every day on this trip, you blow me away. Each post I think I've felt all I could possibly feel, empathized all I could empathize, and questioned the inequities of this world. But each day you bring me to new depths. I want to do more. I will do more. Thank you for this life-changing, thought provoking experience. Zenouba looks like the most precious thing there ever was. That photo of Kim with little Zenouba in her lap just about took my breath away. Thank you.


Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

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