If I had a magic wand, I would give Wangari parents.
Wangari is small for her 8 years and getting smaller. She is a frail, meek girl who sits quietly on the chair in front of me in this distant, rural HIV clinic close to the border of Kenya and Uganda. She is wearing filthy, tattered clothes and smells of the kind of deep poverty that makes one pay attention in even a very poor place.
Wangari lives with her grandmother, a woman too old and weak to make the journey to HIV clinic, and so she was brought in for this appointment to see the visiting pediatrician by a neighbor.
She really should have been started on the medicines to fight the HIV virus quite a few months ago, but without a mother or a father to take responsibility for giving her medicines — with only this ancient grandmother — no one was sure that she should be started on HIV medicines at all.
On this day, lacking my magic wand, but having a fairly magic prescription pad, I decided we didn’t have any other choice. Wangari is losing weight, and her body is being taken over by the diseases of the skin and mouth and lungs that sneak in when your immune system is non-existent.
I talked to the neighbor for a long, long time, drawing pictures and asking questions, trying to determine if she was really serious about helping this little girl take these 4 medicines twice a day and if she understood the weight of this treatment. She needs these medicines every single day. Let’s see if there is any possible way to make this happen.
With these medicines, Wangari will grow again. She will be able to laugh and play and go to school. These medicines mean a future for this little girl. But who will give them?
I tried to involve the social workers to follow up with a visit to Wangari and her grandmother. I tried to convince our nutrition support team to make sure there is enough food, but I just don’t know if this will be enough.
Wangari’s little body was covered with scars collected over a childhood of no one caring too much what happens to you. I wished I could erase her scars. I wished for a magic wand.
But if I REALLY had a magic wand, I would use it for the emergency…
From my imaginary valentine, Bono, a few years ago:
I became the worst scourge on God’s green earth, a rock star with a cause. Christ! Except it isn’t a cause. Seven thousand Africans dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease like AIDS? That’s not a cause, that’s an emergency. And when the disease gets out of control because most of the population lives on less than one dollar a day? That’s not a cause, that’s an emergency.