THIRTY years old Ms Harieth Apolinary, a resident of Mgoma Ward in Ngara District in Kagera Region, is among women who experience insults, stigma and humiliation from their husbands and other clan members, simply because she gave birth to a child with disabilities.
Her sixth and last born daughter, Janeth Apolinary, who is 18 months old, is suffering from hydrocephalus (big head).
Since detection of the problem, the mother has been chased away from her home now and then, with her husband stressing that his clan has never produced a child with that kind of a problem.
Ms Apolinary, who is currently at the Muhimbili Orthopedic Institute (MOI), for her child’s treatment, told WOMAN Magazine that when she was chased away by her husband, she finds it difficult to go back to her parents because there is nobody to take care of her remaining five children.
“My husband has abandoned me and married another woman. I receive no assistance from either my husband or any of his relatives.
He always insults me, telling me that I have brought misfortunes in his family and the clan in general. A month can pass without him bringing even a piece of soap to his children,” she said.
Janeth’s journeys to MOI was facilitated by the Bible Society of Tanzania under its Msamaria Mwema Project, which is conducted in Ngara District, and aims to identify disabled children and link them with any relevant institution for possible assistance.
Last week, the ‘Daily News’ reported the story of a bedridden child, Nelson Mujuni, a resident of Benaco ward in Ngara, who has been suffering from hydrocephalus for over 12 years and that he requires medical support.
With the publication, the Bible Society felt the need to link them with the MOI free treatment for children suffering from hydrocephalus, and therefore immediately organized a trip not only for Nelson, but for Janeth and another patient, Philipo Bernard, who were accompanied by their mothers, Ms Anita Silidion, Harieth Apolinary and Meritha Bernard, respectively.
“We collaborated with the social welfare department in the Town Council and Ngara District Disabled People’s Organisation to make the trip possible.
However, we urge the public to continue supporting the victims, because despite the free treatment, they are in need of other humanitarian aid,” said Msamaria Mwema Project Coordinator, Mr Adam Kamaana.
The children have already undergone various tests at MOI, including that of CT-Scan, to identify how they can benefit from medical treatment, said the Nursing Officer at the health facility, Ms Neema Shuma.
She clarified that the kind of medical benefits one is supposed to have depends on whether the problem continues or it has stopped, adding that in other words, treatment depends on the scope of the problem.
“Continuation of the problem means the victim’s head continues to enlarge, or it has stopped to enlarge, but still one experiences vomiting, epilepsy-related problems and other signs of hydrocephalus.
It means everyone might have his/her own way to benefit with medical treatment, including counselling,” she said.
Ms Shuma said that they are almost 100 percent sure of full recovery for hydrocephalus children who receive treatment at the hospital at an early stage of the problem, insisting that parents should consult health service providers immediately after they detect something wrong with their minors’ heads.
To avoid bearing hydrocephalus children, an expectant mother should start to attend clinic on time, according to Ms Shuma, further saying that three months is the right time for a mother to start having clinic services.
Again, due to the fact that one of hydrocephalus causes is lack of folic acid minerals in the human body, the Nursing Officer advised that couples should start taking folic acid tablets/dose three months before the mother conceives.
“Most importantly, an expectant mother must have balanced meals, including foods with folic acid minerals. That is the only means we can avoid bearing children with hydrocephalus problems,” she said. The Officer stressed that hydrocephalus is curable, urging parents to avoid keeping their children indoors, believing that such type of children are cursed.
She also called for regular public education campaigns to inform the society, including male parents who have been abandoning children with hydrocephalus that the problem is like any other health problem and not a misfortune.
According to Ms Shuma, adults can also experience hydrocephalus but without enlargement of their heads as it is the case for children.
She further clarified that usually, hydrocephalus comes as a result of brain ventricles’ blockage, a situation that prevents the cerebrospinal fluid from circulating within the brain and spinal cord.
An adult can experience brain ventricles’ blockage as a result of an accident, inflammation/swelling formation in the brain or meningitis, hence hydrocephalus problems.
‘However, the adult’s head never gets enlarged, rather, the victim experiences vomiting, poor eyesight, serious headache as well as epilepsy problems. The adult case is quite different from those of children, as the latter are usually born with congenital, one of the reason behind their heads’ enlargement,” she said.
Ms Shuma insisted that mothers should scrutinize their children after giving birth; saying hydrocephalus normally starts to emerge from three months after birth.
She reiterated that hydrocephalus is curable when the victim attends medical services at an early stage of the problem, calling on parents/guardians to take the affected children to hospital.