KENYA: Living in a Slum, Where Poverty & Disease Reigns….
Consigned to poverty and without any other option, 17-year-old Silas Odhiambo defied tradition and saw nakedness of his grandmother.
The young man bathed, cleaned the soiled, massaged and took care of his 75-year-old granny with the hands of a nurse. Silas was orphaned by HIV and Aids while still a toddler and grew up to assume the role handled by only those much older than himself.
To Silas, Grandma Domitila Achieng Obera was not a grandmother like any other, she was the “mother” who bottle-fed him from the age of four months.
“Silas’ mother died when he was only four months old. Grandma, who had been taking care of her other orphaned grandchildren, did not hesitate. We are told that she instantly took up the infant even though she had been through with this call years ago,” recalled photographer Felix Masi whose organisation Voicelesschildren.org chronicled Domitila’s life until her death in May this year. In stunning heart-breaking photos capturing Silas lifting and cleaning his bed-ridden grandmother off a tattered mattress hoisted over a stone for a pillow, Silas goes about his service quietly and carefully.
Though in total they are 11 HIV and Aids siblings and cousins, it is Silas who bathed her, cleaned her up whenever she answered a call of nature.
“Two days before Grandma Domitila died and these pictures were taken with Silas close by, we asked him what his biggest wish in life was. He said all he wanted was to see his grandmother live long enough for him to build her a house. Sadly that was not to be,” recalled Masi.
Three months after her death, Silas is back to the struggles of life together with his siblings in their Kibera shanty, grappling with an uncertain future. While she was alive and able, these HIV and Aids orphans found comfort and solace in the aged hands of their grandmother who refused to let them suffer after their parents were claimed by Aids.
Theirs is the predicament of many HIV and Aids orphans left under the care of grandmothers who are too old and sickly to fend for them.
The cycle of poverty continues, with the cruel hand of HIV and Aids aggravating an already desperate situation. “It is not difficult to see that the mothers and grandmothers are bearing the heavier responsibility for poverty and Aids. The situation in the depths of Kibera is so pathetic that dignity and traditions for children like Silas would not matter much,” says Mr Steve Ombogo, a social worker in Kibera based at the Stara Kicap Rescue Centre.
Reprinted from Daily Nation
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