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What Liberation Looks Like

Fatuma's Story

July 25, 2016 - Uganda

JL Wright

Thoughts from a Mom

Real Stories Hitting Home

My life these days looks pretty standard "stay-at-home-parent" crazy. Up and down all night, early wake up calls, bottles of milk, lots of cartoons, coloring pages, and book-reading. And let’s not forget stroller pushing, Batman-mobile riding, and kiddie-pool swimming or popsicles underneath the shade of the front porch on a hot Summer afternoon.

I love my kiddos. I’ve found my true calling as a mom, there’s nothing more amazing than watching these two little gifts grow and learn and change with each passing day. There’s also nothing more scary than when one of them is sick.

As I’ve been reading and learning more about Real Medicine Foundation’s (RMF) work in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, I’ve been blown away by the countless stories of needs being met, lives being altered, sickness being cured, and potential being recognized. But, as a parent, I’ve been hit especially hard by the story of one little girl in particular, Fatuma.


In Need of Help

Fatuma was a very sick little girl, suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and malaria. She had a fever with chest pain, coughing, and vomiting. Her mother, who is a Ugandan, said that Fatuma started having a fever, and continued to escalate until she could no longer eat. Her whole body also looked burned (another symptom of SAM). Her mother, convinced by the superstitions that persist in the settlement, believed that Fatuma suffered from witchcraft or a bad spirit, and so, like other parents under this belief, was embarrassed to bring her into the health center. Many parents act this way because they are ashamed of having a child being attacked by the bad spirits of their ancestors.

Fatuma was brought to one of the health centers within the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement that RMF directly runs as Implementing Partners of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). These health centers are positioned within the settlement to improve the health and hygiene of the population of people, well over 50,000 refugees. Many of the children within the settlement, like Fatuma, suffer from SAM because of famine in their countries of origin such as South Sudan and also often because of poor feeding habits within their homes. These health centers face this lack of food and education head-on while helping little ones (and their families) in need.

Once again, when I think of this little girl in the context of parenthood, I am brought to tears. I’ve watched my boys wake up with a fever, lose their desire to play, refuse to eat, and look up at me and cry as if begging me to fix everything and make the pain go away. I am so thankful that the sicknesses they’ve had have ended quickly and they’ve gone back to their normal, high-energy selves. But there have been enough dark, sleepless nights for me as I’ve sat by their beds, praying they improve, that I can’t imagine being in the position that Fatuma’s mom found herself in.

Watching your child continue to decline. Worrying about what would happen. Feeling embarrassed to bring her to a clinic for help because of what you’ve been taught. Thinking your child has been plagued by an evil spirit. Not knowing what to feed her or how to help her. Ultimate helplessness.

I’m so thankful that RMF is active in areas like this, where food and education is scarce and superstition and sickness is high. I’m so thankful that, for Fatuma, her story ends much differently than it could have.

Fatuma stayed at the health center for two weeks, and during that time, her mother was amazed by her improvement. Fatuma’s mother explained that her community believes that treating a child with modern medicine who has been attacked by bad spirits, will cause the child to die instantly. This obviously makes the community avoid clinics as much as they can. RMF workers were able to counsel Fatuma’s mother and explain that it was not a bad spirit attacking her daughter, but malaria.

RMF’s Goal

Liberating Human Potential

RMF’s main goal is to liberate human potential. And this is what it looks like. Not just giving medicine, but helping communities and individuals like this mom as they work to eradicate illiteracy and increase their knowledge on how to care for themselves and their families. To empower them to make choices that will better their lives. As a result of this, not only was Fatuma’s life saved, but Fatuma’s mother is now an advocate for her community, which will lead to further education and countless other children saved.

In a world full of so much grief and sadness right now, it is so encouraging to see good taking place, people being empowered, and lives being altered for the better. Not a day goes by that I don’t lay down at night and wonder what is in store for my children as they grow. We are fortunate to be able to raise our children in a place that has so much good at our disposal. There is nothing better than laying your babies down in their warm, safe beds at night and knowing they have had their needs met. I am thrilled to learn more about and be a part of an organization like RMF, who is liberating moms around the world with the ability to experience that same feeling.

Fatuma is only one of many children whose health has been restored thanks to the efforts of RMF. Read the most recent field report, and learn more about RMF’s work in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement.

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