One Twin Has HIV, the Other Doesn't.But I Love Them the Same; DAY TWO: MUM DEVOTES HER LIFE TO THE 13 KIDS LIVING IN A SINGLE ROOM in Sub Saharan Africa, Two Thirds of the People Live in Dangerous and Dirty Slum Conditions, with Little or No Access to Health Care, Clean Water, Education or a Regular Supply of Food

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), March 8, 2007 | Go to article overview

One Twin Has HIV, the Other Doesn't.But I Love Them the Same; DAY TWO: MUM DEVOTES HER LIFE TO THE 13 KIDS LIVING IN A SINGLE ROOM in Sub Saharan Africa, Two Thirds of the People Live in Dangerous and Dirty Slum Conditions, with Little or No Access to Health Care, Clean Water, Education or a Regular Supply of Food


Byline: By Brian McIver

DAY TWO: MUM DEVOTES HER LIFE TO THE 13 KIDS LIVING IN A SINGLE ROOM In sub Saharan Africa, two thirds of the people live in dangerous and dirty slum conditions, with little or no access to health care, clean water, education or a regular supply of food. The slum populations are also being decimated by the AIDS epidemic, with families breaking down because parents are falling victim to the disease. But more and more people in countries like Kenya are now getting the help and support they need, thanks to the work of some vital local projects being funded by Comic Relief. In the build up to Red Nose Day 2007 on March 16, the Record travelled to Nairobi to find out just how bad the conditions are in some of the worst slums in the world and see how the public's donations are making a difference.

THE stark plight of African slum life in the 21st century is encapsulated perfectly by this picture of courageous mum Emily Odhiamba and her twins.

Like every mother on every continent in the world, Emily loves and dotes on each of her children equally, but her devotion is tinged with sadness because she knows that only one of them will ever grow up.

The 39-year-old mother was diagnosed with HIV four years ago - one year before the birth of her beloved twins Laura and Joseph.

And when she found out that her beautiful daughter had been born healthy and HIV-free, her relief was short-lived, because her doctor then had to tell her Joseph had inherited her illness, and her death sentence.

Emily, whose husband and two younger sisters have already fallen victim to AIDS, leaving her to care for 13 children by herself, is one of an entire generation of the bravest mothers on the planet.

These women have to shoulder the welfare and care for their families and balance their tiny expenditure between medicine for themselves or food for the family.

And in the densely-packed mud and plastic constructed shanties of the swarming slums of Nairobi in Kenya, there is the ultimate vicious circle.

If the mother chooses to feed her children instead of buying the Antiretroviral drugs, she will die and leave them as orphans.

If she buys the medicine, not only will her family starve but the strong drugs can only be taken with food that she now does not have because she has had to use the budget to buy pills.

Meanwhile outside the four flimsy walls, there are violent gangs fighting and feuding, and the rains come and turn the slum into a muddy swamp.

But as bleak as things sound, do not for one second think that it is a hopeless situation for mothers like Emily, because she certainly doesn't.

Although she is heart-broken by the fact that little Joseph shares her illness, Emily is determined to fight with every minute of health and strength she has to give Joseph and the other 12 children in her charge the best chance.

With her husband gone, she looks after eight of her own kids, and has taken in five orphans of her sisters Pamela and Jenne, who both recently fell victim to Africa's modern plague. "AIDS is the biggest problem facing everyone I know in Kibera," she said.

"Every family has been touched by it in some way and everyone has lost somebody.

"There are also a lot of mothers who are ill themselves but who also have to look after the children because the father is either dead or has left them.

"But every mother I know would do anything to help their kids and make sure their lives are better than ours.

"When I heard that my daughter was healthy, it was a wonderful relief, because I was not sure what would happen with the disease.

"But to hear that Joseph was positive broke my heart. It's a terrible feeling to have passed this onto my child, but I will do everything I can to give them the best life possible.

"I want to make sure he gets the right medicine to live as long and as healthily as possible, and I want all of my children to go to school and have a chance to leave Kibera. …

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One Twin Has HIV, the Other Doesn't.But I Love Them the Same; DAY TWO: MUM DEVOTES HER LIFE TO THE 13 KIDS LIVING IN A SINGLE ROOM in Sub Saharan Africa, Two Thirds of the People Live in Dangerous and Dirty Slum Conditions, with Little or No Access to Health Care, Clean Water, Education or a Regular Supply of Food
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