It Takes More Than A Village

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There we were, with a sweet baby boy, who was barely a day old and suddenly an orphan. His Maasai mother had succumbed to eclampsia shortly following his birth. He was a small newborn and was placed into one of our incubators upon arrival, but he was strong, undoubtedly strong. One of FAME’s social workers, Kitashu, sprang into action as soon as he heard of the child’s current circumstances. He immediately contacted the family, who were far from FAME in a very remote village in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. He knew to support this newborn, he would need to involve the family to find someone to breastfeed and to help care for this charming baby boy. At FAME, and throughout Tanzania, the nurses know formula feeding for babies is not a sustainable solution due to limited resources. For most cases of maternal mortality, nurses and social workers look for a relative or neighbor that has young children and is able to breastfeed an additional child. For this baby, it was a challenge for Kitashu to find someone. After communicating back and forth with the child’s village and relatives, they finally found a young Maasai woman a few villages over who had a small infant of her own that would be a great match for our new little one. She agreed to come to FAME for three weeks for our team to observe feeding and ensure this baby boy would continue to grow and have the same strength we noticed during his first moments of life.  

During their stay at FAME, Kitashu worked with the young mother to ensure she, her young child, and our little one received the attention they needed. He brought them baby clothes, soap, and “kanga” which is a common type of Tanzanian fabric many new mothers use. As the social worker on this case, he was able to develop a relationship with this newly formed family. He said he saw an opportunity to help and he was happy to take it. With a huge smile on his face, he then disclosed that on discharge day, the family chose to name this new baby boy Kitashu, because of all the support they had received.

 

Social worker Kitashu and his namesake still get to see one another for check ups during Well Baby Day in the Reproductive and Child Health Center at FAME. At three months old, he’s still doing well and growing stronger and stronger with each visit. As an observer, seeing Kitashu work alongside this family, ensuring the safety and stability of life for this new baby boy was incredible. The family clearly has a lot of respect and love for Kitashu after the support he’s provided. Additionally, the young woman who stepped up to care for a baby that prior to our phone call, she had no relationship to was inspiring. We were all in awe of this new mother who came forward, willing to travel to FAME for nearly a month to support baby Kitashu without having ever met his family and with a young child of her own in tow. They say it takes a village, but this case made it evident that, sometimes, it takes more than that. It takes deep kindness and unconditional compassion that transcends village boundaries.

Kathrine Kuhlmann