Suburban angels

March 2021

It is not a misspelling. It is really written in the feminine. Today in the operating room we have three patients, a girl and two girls. Different stories but with the effects of the pandemic on poverty in common. And then they say that Covid has had little impact in East Africa. Isolation, exclusion and violence have increased dramatically.

Given the professional secrecy not being able to call them by their names, the three patients will be Angela 1, Angela 2 and Angela 3.

Kibera, the largest slum in East Africa, southern suburb of Nairobi. Angela 1 was born there and lives there. A year ago she was hit by a boda boda, the mototaxi of Nairobi. Exposed fracture of the leg. Collected by some passers-by just before curfew and transported to his hut. The lockdown it was heavy, the market where my mother had a vegetable stand had been closed for days, the hospitals full and too expensive to afford. The leg became infected and got worse week after week. No money, no care. After two months through a social worker who learned of the case, Angela 1 is taken to our hospital. The likelihood of limb amputation was high, but an attempt had to be made to save the leg. Long surgical cleaning, external fixator, antibiotics, good nutrition. Angela 1 got better little by little. During the long hospitalization he started reading and studying again in the room of our pediatrics. Today after so many months, still in full pandemic, the wound has healed, the bone has reformed, and we have removed the external fixator. Angela 1 will stay with us for a few more weeks to continue physiotherapy.

Korogocho, northeastern suburb of Nairobi, among the slim with higher population density. 100.000 inhabitants in one square kilometer. Red zone like all of Nairobi. But how is it possible to stay closed in the shack all day, without school? Angela 2, an orphan, is taken by a World Friends social worker to the emergency room of our hospital. They found her huddled in a corner of an alley where she went for 2 days without eating or drinking. He doesn't talk to anyone. Dehydrated, she has a fever and a large hematoma in her right side and thigh. While she was going to get water from a common tap on the street in the evening, she was attacked by a neighbor from a shack. Again and again violence against women. After the hematoma has been drained, Angela 2 will stop at our hospital for dressings, adequate nutrition and to be followed by our psychologist.

Kajiado County, south of Nairobi on the border with Tanzania. The area is mainly populated by the Maasai, scattered in distant villages. The lockdown of the metropolitan city of Nairobi with police and military checkpoints had blocked the whole region. Angela 3 hasn't walked for months. She is 4 years old and malnourished and does not move from her hut. He developed osteomyelitis of the tibia, a deep bone infection that caused a pathological fracture. The mother has two younger twins and the girl is cared for in turn by the women of the Maasai manyatta. The lockdown has been eased a few weeks ago and our Mobile Clinic has resumed traveling hundreds of kilometers every day in Maasailand, guaranteeing visits, drugs, nutritional supplements. Reaching Angela 3's village, the nurse visited the little patient who was then transported to our hospital. This morning she will be operated on and then she will continue the nutritional program in our center.

Stories of little women, different but the same, on the long road to conquer and defend rights.

To educate to health and to prevent, to favor access to diagnosis and treatment for the most abandoned and distant, to those who have no privileges, to fight against superstition and ignorance on the one hand and against private medicine reduced to commerce. All these fundamentals that are taught with so much difficulty in our health centers, in our hospital, in courses for young health workers. But above all, "Taking Care" is taught, a modality that brings together professionalism and ethics, commitment and care, science and compassion.

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