Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Liberia 2014

Today I'm celebrating little Anna's first birthday. I honestly don't know if she made it through her first year. Liberia was not the best place in the world to start your life last year as you all know. Besides the usual poverty in her region, there was Ebola. Still, I insist on making this a joyful day dedicated to her.

Little Anna: she could fit into my suitcase several times! 
She was born after a pregnancy of about 34 weeks, weighing around 1700 grams, too small to drink from her mother's breast. After some hesitation (how on earth were we going to help her?!) we started teaching her mother to pump breast-milk manually and feed her, first with a spoon, then with a syringe. Pumping manually in this case means literally pumping with your bare hands, because there was no manual pump anywhere near the clinic!

It worked! The first few nights were broken nights, not just for the mother, but after a few days Anna could drink like any newborn. In the beginning we had to teach her mom to look at a clock and wake her up every other hour. We told her not to wait until the baby started crying (a common habit in Liberia), or she would never cry again. She was simply too small to bother!

In the same week, another tiny baby was brought into the clinic, little Hannah. She had barely had any milk for the first 6 days of her life and now she came looking very weak and sick. Her 16-year-old mother hadn't known what to do. The child didn't drink her milk. Hannah died on her second day at the clinic while I was holding her and while her mother was still looking at me to help save her child. There was nothing to be done.

These girls for me have faces and names, unlike so many other children who struggle to make it through their first years in Africa.
Per 1000 live births 71 children die in Liberia before their 5th birthday (compare to 7 in the U.S. and 4 in the Netherlands). These are numbers given bij UNICEF for 2013, before the Ebola-crisis.

So today I celebrate Anna, not just hoping that she's made it to her first birthday, but also remembering the many nameless children who aren't celebrated. And may those of us who have birthdays every year, help protect them by making our World more safe and fair.

Birthday gifts: baby-clothes to tag along on the next trip to Liberia :)

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