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A day with Rose who is in charge of the Nutrition Unit started with a search for Kongai, a 21 month old child who had been discharged from the unit last October. Could we find her home no matter how hard we tried? We asked men working in the fields, women carrying jerry cans of water on their heads, children going to school, a drunk family (so early in the day) and persevered until we reached her home to find her looking well. She had been admitted with SAM, severe acute malnutrition, with oedema.

I thought our day would progress with few children seen at this rate but I was wrong. Aguti was ten years looking more like 4 years and such a happy little soul with her limited mental ability. She could well learn to walk if given the opportunity so we showed the father how to make parallel bars for her to practice standing and walking. She may well need a wheelchair in the future.

Osio’s mother died after giving birth when the hospital left a pair of scissors in her. She was being cared for by her 33 year old grandmother who already had eight children and, guess what, her husband had a co-wife with two children. Complicated! Good Catholics!

Then followed what is becoming the norm for each day! The tear jerker story of Agwang whose HIV+ parents died two years ago. Agwang is the child head of the family for her three sisters and the only one unfortunate to be HIV+ like her parents. She did not collect her essential ARV’s from Kumi Hospital each month as she could not pay for the transport. Dressed in dark grey and in an equally dark depression, she sat hunched forward with tears dropping down her face and wiping them away on her skirt. It is these occasions when you see that life can be so terribly unfair. She was a sick girl and with responsibilities way beyond her years on her shoulders. Our initial plan was to give her transport money to Kumi so that she could get a transfer paper from Kumi Hospital allowing her to collect her drugs from a local Health Clinic. She stayed with someone elsewhere pointing to group of mud hut rooves I could see in the distance but, if she could have a small mud hut, she could keep the family together. James, our mobiliser for the day, would supervise the construction of a simple hut which should not cost too much to build. They would make their own bricks out of termite hill mud and buy the rest. It was not the ideal type of house but one to keep the family together at low cost. I hadn’t given James this sort of responsibility before so I hope he doesn’t disappoint me. We made our farewells and Agwang hugged me still with her tears falling on my shoulders but qunable to smile. How times have changed with regards to our reaction to contact with HIV and AIDS!

We footed it back to the vehicle along the narrow tracks and with the sun beating down on us to continue our plan of following up Rose’ discharged children. Opolot, Among, Okede and a second Opolot all retaining the progress made in the Nutrition Unit. Okede’s mother had died after a Caesarian Section and his father had committed suicide only two months ago finding life too much caring for his eleven children. He had bought poison for 200/= (½p). The children were being cared for by a mother who already had five children. One more stop as we passed near where James, the mobiliser, lived. His wife was waiting to meet me with their four month old baby called Elspeth (not another one!). Their fourth child and he announced their impending marriage!

Our mission was complete and we were tired and extremely dirty as the dust storms had covered us from head to toe. Then a mother ran over the rough ground carrying her 6 year old son, Ben, over her shoulder. Out of breath, she reminded me that I had bought Ben a goat a few years back and she proudly pointed to a large healthy cow with its calf well camouflaged in the shade of a bush in the distance. I had to retrace her steps at a more leisurely pace to see her pride and joy and I, too, was filled with joy to witness the success of our endeavours! The boy would soon need a wheelchair in time but the mother was coping and wheelchairs are like gold for us at present.

Back at the Guest House, I could shower with acceptably warm water to rid me of the dirt and sweat. Supper appears on the table each night but, sometimes, I cannot eat too much of Anne’s excellent cooking as I am so tired. It’s also back to present day life with paperwork. emails, Skype and writing this diary which helps me to consolidate the memories of the day. Sleeping in this heat is far from easy so we are all hoping that soon the rains will come in abundance.

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