Namibia: A Child's Sacrifice for a Mother

EVERY day Hileni Iiyambo lies in the same position for hours until her daughter returns home from school to give her a bath, change her nappy and feed her.

The 46-year-old woman, who has been suffering from a rare spinal condition for the past seven years, needs to be tied to her bed while her daughter, Julia David (18), is at school, to keep her from falling off the bed.

Iiyambo is unable to walk or relieve herself.

She was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis (TB) in 2014 and has been struggling to move around without the assistance of her teenage daughter since.

The two live in a small shack in Windhoek's Greenwell Matongo informal settlement.

The roles of mother and daughter have been reversed as Iiyambo solely relies on Julia for practically everything.

Julia cares for her mother 24/7 and is unable to fully concentrate on her schoolwork.

"I survive on a bottle of water and Oshikundu [a traditional drink], which I try to not completely finish until my daughter gets back from school," Iiyambo says.

The mother says Julia's academic performance has never quite picked up since she had to start caring for her.

"My daughter baths me and carries me around the entire time. I would wait for her to come from school so she can cook and clean me up, which is affecting her mental state," she says.

Iiyambo is pleading for land or a place to stay where she is able to have her siblings over to help her daughter take care of her.

"The lawful owner of the place we are currently residing at has prohibited my siblings from living with me," she says.

The current landlord only allows her daughter to live with her, she says.

Iiyambo says the little she receives through her monthly social grant is still not enough to pay her daughter's school fees or the electricity bill with.

"My daughter baths me in the dark because our electricity has been cut off, and we cannot afford to pay it," she says.

Julia, who is currently in Grade 10, describes life as very hard and unfair.

She says her life is very different from other teenagers' as all she can think of during the day is what they have to cook at home and how her mother is doing.

"After school, I rush home to collect firewood in the riverbed. My worry is always where to go next. I am pleading for someone to please help us with food, nappies, clothes, and sanitary pads, but especially with a place to stay and a wheelchair for my mother," she says.

Julia says she dries out her mother's used nappies to reuse as they cannot afford to buy enough.

She says every day she fears that she may have tied the rope that keeps her mom from falling too tight or too loose.

"Tying up my mother helps her from falling off the bed. Initially we received free nappies from the hospital, but they do not provide those any more," she says.

The teenager says she does not want to talk about her father.

Former minister of health and social services and medical doctor Bernard Haufiku says spinal TB is caused by an infection of the bones, muscles and tissues of the spinal column, but micro-bacterial TB can affect the lungs, brain or any part of the body.

Haufiku says a patient suffering from spinal TB experiences typical TB symptoms.

"They usually experience fever, losing weight and night sweats. In this case, they will experience pain in the spine. As it progresses, you lose your spinal curvature, and your spine becomes more curved," he says.

"Your posture literally changes, because once one or two of the bones in your back are destroyed, then your posture is no longer in the normal straight curved line," he says.

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