Saturday, June 20, 2015

Florence

Florence woke up before the sun rose.  She built a small fire, and cooked dinner for her 6 children in case she did not make it home again before dark.  Florence lives in a remote village in Kitgum, Uganda.  Her youngest child, Rwotomiya, is very overdue for his 14 week immunization and Florence plans to travel to the clinic today. 

Florence has to walk 4 hours to reach the nearest health clinic. 

As she walks, she waves to other mothers and their babies as they make similar journeys often with large bundles of food and wood weighing down their head.

Rwo was very sick.  Throwing up constantly and rapidly losing weight, Florence took Rwo to two different hospitals for treatment.  At every hospital Florence asked for Rwo’s 14 week immunizations but was refused due to Rwo’s weak state.  Yesterday, Rwo finally started to feel better, and today Florence will take him for his immunization.

“It is very important to me that he get his vaccinations,” said Florence. “I do not want any more of my children to die.”

Florence, who is now 35, had her first child when she was 15.  At 14 and pregnant, she had just begun to live at her new husband’s village when she was kidnapped by Liberation Rebel Army.  The man who captured her, took her as his wife and forced her to take tablets to end her pregnancy.  Two months later, while she was supposed to be taking a bath, Florence escaped and ran to a refugee camp where she met up with her husband.  Florence stayed at the camp with her husband for 5 years.   

“It was a very hard time for me, but I am so grateful to be alive now,” said Florence.

Although the forced tablets did not take, Florence lost her 7-month old baby in the camp.  Florence has lost 4 out of her 10 babies.  All of the babies died within two hours from intense vomiting.  She was unable to make the 4 hour trip to the clinic on time.

“I learned about the importance of immunization from the village health workers who have told me they could save my babies’ lives.

Florence tied her baby to her back using a piece of cloth, and protected Ruwo from the intense sun by covering his head with a Callabus—a hollow piece of pumpkin shell.

“The walk is very hard. When my children are sick, I have to leave them in a house near the clinic and return the next day to get them because they are too small to walk the journey back home.”

The walk is hot and the road is dusty from the lack of rain.  Flies balance on the baby’s head and face and do not leave.  Florence walks fast because if she is too late, the clinic may be out of the vaccines she came for. 

Florence cuts across the final field, 4 hours later. The clinic is busy with mothers and their children.  Florence waited for 2 hours before she could be seen by a health care worker.  Ruwa received his dose of Polio vaccine, and Diptheria/Tetanus/Whooping Cough/ Hepatitis B/ Haaemophilius Influenze type B vaccine (DPT3 Vaccine).

“The health care workers treat me and my baby so well,” said Florence.

The health care worker took routine measurements of Ruwa to determine if his weight, height, eyes and ears were functioning normally.  All tests were normal. 

“So many women travel so far to come here to get these vaccines,” said Mary, the only health care worker on duty at the clinic.  “We can only do what we can.”

The clinic had run out of the vaccines for Pneumococcal Pneumonia.

Florence has to bring Ruwa back to the clinic in three days to get the vaccine.  But she has no time to think about that right now, she has to rush to make it home in time to prepare dinner for her family.



Florence and her family








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