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VAS

Hunger, Aids add misery to slum dwellers’ lives

TEN THINGS
By | April 17th 2009

By Dedan Okanga

When the Government officially broke its silence on diminishing food stocks, renewed fears were touched off in a slum in Eldoret.

It is home to widows infected and affected by HIV/Aids. The survivors have been receiving fewer and fewer food donations from well-wishers whom they have depended on for a long time.

Kambi Nyasi slum has rows of grass-thatched houses situated in a bowl of land not far from Eldoret town.

Here, the reality of infant deaths from malnutrition is stark and gloomy.

"There are many sick people inside these huts who would not come out for fear of stigma or physical weakness," said Ms Beatrice Iminza a resident.

Like many of her neighbours, Iminza is sick and on anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy. But unlike them, she has chosen to confront the stigma head-on by going public about her status.

Her household of nine children includes her children and those of her deceased friends, but courage and prayer, as she says, have seen them through lean times.

Next meal

"What denies me sleep are the thoughts of where to get the next meal for the young ones who are on heavy dosage of ARVs," she told The Standard.

Three of her four children were born with the virus and are receiving treatment at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital’s Ampath programme.

The programme provides free anti-retroviral care and periodic food rations to them. But as some disclosed, increasing mouths at the facility has affected the quality of service.

"The idea of free food drives people to the hospital and the quantity served is hardly sufficient for an Aids sufferer," Iminza adds.

It is for this reason that the widow has been going round begging for food.

"Some of my friends are very sick and when they pass on, their children pour into my hut," she said.

Except for some difficulties in breathing, Beatrice would pass for a healthy person as she shows little signs of affliction, but many times this has played to her disadvantage as some people turn her away when she goes begging. She says she administers the medicine to the famished children, some of who are four years old. Some faint because of the strength of the drugs against poor diet.

Too young to work

Two of her sons, barely ten years old go to quarry to break rocks, to turn in a paltry Sh30 after a day’s work.

Concerns for food have meant that the children forgo schooling to help her fend for the family. Those who have continued never proceed beyond class eight for lack of fees.

"I have a sick daughter who is due for Form One this year but this could be the second time she may fail to join because of fees. I would wish that the Government helps me educate her," she added.

One of her friends Beatrice Ndayala cares for an HIV positive daughter who has grown too weak to leave her mother’s hut. When she goes out to beg for food, she only gets bread, which lacks sufficient nutrients to accompany the ARVs.

Most of these victims were displaced by last year’s post-election violence and have been encroaching on any piece of land for the length of time that the owners seem not to mind.

Many NGOs have visited them with promises to better their livelihoods but none of these have materialised.

"They pick non-HIV sufferers to speak for us, and it is them that end up with the food donations and leave us to starve with our children," Iminza laments.

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