Rest in Peace

Yesterday, as we celebrated the first day of Eid al-Adha, distributing meals to over 2,000 local people, the mood quickly turned sombre as we learned that 10-year-old Abdulla had passed away.

Donors and supporters of Kijana Kwanza may remember this charming young boy from our Emergency Appeal last year, when we raised money to pay for his medical treatment.

I vividly recall when Nuridin, one of my friends, took me to Abdulla’s home and I met him for the first time. Despite the fact that he was 9 years old at the time, he looked like he was no more than 5 or 6 years old. The family, comprising the boy’s mother, younger sister and older brother, lived in a one room shelter with no electricity or sanitation. Yet despite the dreary conditions, Abdulla’s smile lit up the room. After a brief conversation with his mother, I decided to reach out to our donors and supporters to help with his treatment.

At first Abdulla’s condition improved, but new complications emerged every couple of months. At every turn, it seemed as though medical staff were as shocked as we were – but whatever was needed, we continued to support his treatment.

When I heard a few weeks ago that his kidneys had failed and that there was no dialysis available locally, I realised that we did not have the means to fund his treatment anymore – particularly since the cost of dialysis in a private hospital outside of Moshi Town is extortionate. The last email I got from Retus, one of our staff who was looking after him and his family, with a picture of what clearly were his final hours, I knew that the inevitable was nigh.

And now, as I sit by my desk, looking at his death certificate and the accompanying notes which state “patient requires dialysis but mother cannot afford treatment” I wonder what kind of world we live in where a child’s treatment stops because the world says that there is no longer enough money to care for him.

I’m also conscious that when I promised his mother we would fund his treatment – what was supposed to be a single operation – I failed to keep the promise I had made.

At first I did not want to go to the funeral – how could I look into his mother’s eyes and offer condolences? But at the last minute I asked Mdimu to drive me over to the cemetery, so I could at least ask this young boy’s forgiveness that I could do no more to help him.

The young people from Kijana Kwanza had spent the morning digging his grave in the cemetery. The grave of a child. We then headed to the mosque, where Abdulla’s body was delivered, for the last funeral rites. Mujibu, our Chair, held Abdulla’s body as he was washed and placed in a white shroud. Then began the slow procession from the mosque to the cemetery, each of our young people taking it in turns to carry his body. He was so small that one person could hold his body without any discomfort.

After the burial, we headed to Abdulla’s home to pay our respects to the family. There were some brief recitations from the scriptures after which our staff served a meal to the mourners. It was also the first time I met Abdulla’s older brother, Juma, who sat alone, weeping uncontrollably.

As we made the way back to Kijana Kwanza, walking through the dusty alleyways of Njoro District, the poorest neighbourhood of Moshi Town, I could not hold back my emotions, and shed a tear of my own. And in those moments, I made another promise, that whilst I had failed Abdulla, I would look after his family.