Watch Mawazo try and beat the odds.
Mawazo* is 15 years old. He sits on a mat on the dirt floor, propped up against a sofa cushion. He is inside his Grandmother’s home in Kabusuri, a village in Nyamatongo ward. The room has no tiling, no carpeting, only the earth that it was constructed around.
Mawazo is all smiles today. He has visitors to speak to him and his guardian about how he developed a neuro-disability from prolonged exposure to celebral malaria.
His story is a sad one. One which exposes the all too often tragic correlation between the development of secondary infections due to delayed treatment of initial symptoms.
Just six years ago, the then nine year old Mawazo had begun to show the symptoms of celebral malaria or ‘degedege’ as it is known in Kiswahili. His convulsions scared his mother so much that she took him to the nearest medical caregiver that she knew of in her village.
The tribal doctor administered traditional ‘dawa’ (medicine) down Mawazo’s nose. His mother watched as he gagged and struggled to keep conscious, but she did not stop the tribal doctor because it is a held belief that one simply does not question a tribal doctor’s actions. In her village it was also believed that ‘degedege’ could not be cured by western medicine but only by the administration of traditional medicines.
Mawazo’s symptoms got worse. So much so that his grandmother stepped in and insisted that he be taken to hospital, but it was too late. The original celebral malaria, having gone untreated for such a long time, had caused Mawazo to have a neuro-disability. His arms and legs are now contorted and he cannot even sit up straight without the aid of a propped cushion. He struggles to form words.
According to Europe PMC group, “Cerebral malaria is the most severe neurological complication of infection with malaria. With over 575,000 cases annually, children in sub-Saharan Africa are the most affected. Surviving patients have an increased risk of neurological and cognitive deficits, behavioral difficulties and epilepsy making cerebral malaria a leading cause of childhood neuro-disability in the region.” (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3056312/)
Jackie, Cedar Tanzania’s Special Needs expert, sits beside Mawazo and speaks encouragingly to see how well he can follow instructions. He surprises her, as slowly with nervous smiles and giggles he lifts his right foot and begins to write the number one.
It was his Grandmother who had first noticed that Mawazo liked to write numbers and letters down on the earth that he would often be left on. Being unable to move his arms she would watch him try and draw these numbers and letters with his foot. He was remembering his learning from the early days of his life, before the celebral malaria, for Mawazo had been a student in Nyamatongo ward.
Jackie asks Mawazo to demonstrate how he writes the letter ‘a’. He begins by making a number of circular movements before finally completing the requested letter with a kick of his foot and his giggles of self satisfaction mingle together with the clapping from his sympathetic audience.
Jackie sees that Mawazo has potential. She wonders what else he can achieve with the correct medical and occupational therapies and educational support. Cedar Tanzania wonders the same.
We have seen that in Nyamatongo ward, children with special needs and disabilities require support in the areas of health, accessing education, and vocational training and entrepreneurship. One of our values is a belief in equality, “where everyone enjoys the same rights and has access to opportunities to fulfill their potential.” For us this covers all people, including those without disabilities and those with disabilities.
*(Mawazo: an alias has been used to protect his identity.)