By Patricia Nakell
Chiaquelane, February 2013 –The line is beginning to grow at the screening point for babies at the Chiaquelane accommodation centre. The hot air is humid and muggy, and soon enough, heavy drops of rain begin to fall, drowning out much of the cries of the small babies waiting for their turn to be checked. One child’s plaintive screams are slightly shriller than the others. He looks tiny in the sling he is wrapped tightly in on the back of his grandmother Clara Mayana.
Domingo is 2-years old, but looks half his age. His voice is hoarse from what must have been a long time crying.
“He has been coughing for several days, and he is swollen around the ears,” says Clara, clearly struggling to contain her own anguish. “As soon as I saw the waters coming, I immediately grabbed the boy and rushed out the house. And we kept walking until we came to this camp.”
Clara’s house, which she says is still submerged, is about 30 kilometres away from the camp, a trek that would be exhausting even for someone younger and fitter. But for an older person such as Clara, carrying a child and in unforgiving heat, the journey must have been gruelling.
“I am not tired,” she says, spoken in the tone of someone who never complains. Soon it is Domingo’s turn to get a check-up. Being weighed in a sling is never a terribly dignified affair, and he voices his displeasure quite loudly to all of us. But he’s soon back in grandmother’s safe arms. Next up, vaccinations.
Luckily the needle is so thin that Domingo hardly seems to notice it, or else the pain in his ears is too overwhelming. Clara has a short conversation with the health worker, who tells her that Domingo is underweight and would require, not only medication for his cough, but also feeding supplements to make sure he gets all the nutrition he needs.
As Clara and Domingo make their way through the waiting lines and out of the tent, he looks back at us, holding on to a big biscuit the health worker has given him. It has stopped raining, and a hint of a smile quickly crosses his face.
UNICEF is supporting a government-run programme at the Chiaquelane accommodation camp in Gaza Province to screen children for malnutrition and offer immunisation services.
For more information, please contact:
Patricia Nakell, UNICEF Mozambique
Tel: +258 82 312 1820; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100;