“My name is Rosemary Mombo. My relationship with Munyaradzi is like this, his grandfather is my brother, therefore his father is a child to my brother. When his father got married, the couple gave birth to their first born baby girl and named her Bridgette. Afterwards, they had another child who happened to be Munyaradzi. Munyaradzi’s mother delivered through operation and not normal delivery, and unfortunately passed away six weeks after Munyaradzi was born.
As a result of their mother’s death, the children were taken to a rural area called Sadza, where they were expected to be taken care of by their maternal grandmother. Their maternal grandmother is very much alive today, but she is now remarried elsewhere and there is no relation to any of Munyaradzi and Bridgette’s relations. As a result, she could not move with her grandchildren in her new marriage set-up. I therefore decided to take the young Munyaradzi and stay with him since he was six weeks old at the time. When I brought him to my home in Harare, the following day I took him to the local satellite clinic to be taught how to fend for the baby such as preparing milk for him. During that period, nobody thought that he will survive. When he was 3 months old, his father came to visit us and see how the baby was doing, and was very much surprised to see that the child was alive and well. Seeing his child growing up well kind of gave him a license to neglect his responsibility to fend for the child. He left me without any material and moral support for the child, and that is when I started having more challenges related to Munyaradzi’s health as he started falling sick quite often and I was not sure what was causing the illness.
Since I had a homestead in the rural areas, I would always travel between the urban and rural area with the child, and also take him to health centers in both areas, where he gained the reputation of being the always sick child. Between the ages of 3 to 5 years, Munyaradzi’s health began improving and I though he was now growing up well like any other healthy child. From that period up to today, Munyaradzi’s health has not taken a more serious turn for the worst, he is doing fairly fine.
In order for me to know that he was HIV positive, it is because of the events that affected his older sister Brigette, who by then was staying with their father and Stepmother in rural Beatrice. Between 2012 and 2013, Bridgette was abandoned by her parents leaving her alone in Beatrice as the parents migrated to South Africa. I received a call from one of the community members there that Bridgette had been left to fend for herself at 12 years of age. I had to travel to Beatrice to collect her so that I can take care of both Munyaradzi and Bridgette. When she turned thirteen years, she started experiencing her first menstrual cycle, and that is the same time we discovered that she was HIV positive. This was in 2013, when at the same time there was a cholera alert which coincided with her first time menstruation. During that period, she started falling sick and always vomiting most of the times. I took her to the clinic and told the staff that I could not understand what was happening to Bridgette. Although the staff acknowledged the cholera symptoms, they enquired about her mother whom I explained how she passed on and left her kids behind.
As a result, I was recommended to have Bridgette tested for HIV, and she tested HIV positive. I also told the health staff that Bridgette had a younger brother whom I left at home, being the one whose mother passed on after his birth. I was told to bring the young brother the following day for HIV testing. The day Bridgette was tested, her CD4 count was at 198. When I went with Munyaradzi and tested for HIV, he also came out positive but his CD4 count was at 498. Bridgette was immediately placed on ART, and she is now 17 years old and studying for her Ordinary level examinations.
After having the children tested for HIV, I contacted their father and stepmother to let them know the outcomes of the HIV tests conducted on their children. All they ever said was “Oh my…the CD4 count was now low…..”. My heart was broken and bleeding in that they did not tell me from the onset that the children were HIV positive. It’s something that the father knew prior to the passing of his first wife but did not bother sharing after I started looking after his children. I asked myself the question that did they intend to have the children dying on me without knowledge that they were HIV positive, then I get blamed for their deaths if I had not known earlier. Bridgette was close to dying have I not taken her to the health center for a medical checkup. I was very much stressed during that period, and I am grateful for the counselling that I received at FICA that gave me the strength to care for these 2 children. FICA also played a great role in counselling the children and myself so that we can all live positively.
lately, Munyaradzi poses heavy questions on me, questions that I cannot answer. I write them down and refer him to FICA staff so that he receives appropriate counselling. During the period of discovering the HIV status of these 2 children, I experienced domestic violence in relation to fending for the children. My husband did not want us to care for the children just because they are HIV positive. As a result, he abandoned us and left me to care for the children alone. Prior to his departure, he tried to send me away from our matrimonial home with these 2 children complaining that “I cannot fend for such people, do you want to kill me?”. I did not move out of the house, but he decided himself to move out and go to stay in our rural home. He further told me he did not love me anymore, and prior to his departure he spent 3 months without eating the food I cooked for him and never slept in our bedroom, preferring to sleep in the lounge or outside the house. Afterwards he left for the rural area.
The challenge for me and the children now is that their father does not communicate at all up to today. Right now it is about 6 years without him coming to see his children. If I call his cellphone always goes to voicemail. He has never attempted to even ask a little bit about the welfare of his children, he is not concerned at all. This breaks my heart because I do not know what to do in relation to their school fees and food to always feed them. I have tried other potential funders to no avail. It has been a struggle since these children were learning at primary level for them to attend school.
Munyaradzi is an intelligent child. He passed primary school final examinations with distinctions in all 4 subjects. At that moment I was so excited that he passed but at the same time I cried because I did not know what to do for him in order to continue with his secondary school education for I did not have any relevant resources. I do thank God for Mr. Chakanyuka from FICA, whom I approached and asked for help. He made phone calls to whoever it was and we were given resources to send Munyaradzi to school for his Form 1 (one) last year in 2016. We also used the resources to purchase school uniforms and books. Munyaradzi’s father right now does not even know and even care at all to at least think that his son is going to school. My heart is in pain, in great pain that the father does not even know or care for such an academically gifted child. Both Bridgette and Munyaradzi are academically gifted, and I constantly ask myself what am I going to do for them so that they make it through their education.
Right now, in order to ensure that I get something to pay their fees I go to their schools to do manual labor in the school grounds and work for them. Currently, Munyaradzi also does not have a birth certificate. I have tried all I could to get one but it has been very difficult since I do not have his mother’s death certificate. Only Bridgette has a birth certificate. It really pains me because Munyaradzi always asks me that “Mama…(he calls me mama)…what am I going to be? I do not participate in most activities like other children, others do athletics, but there are other things that I am also good at and cannot participate due to my status and lack of birth certificate”.
Lately in 2017, he was given a different type of ARVs in which he had a negative reaction to. He developed jaundice (yellow eyes) a condition that he currently has. At the hospital, they told me he must always have something to eat and drink. I was told that in the event he develops a running stomach, I must rush him to the hospital the other end of town where I need to commute twice one way. I really struggle to raise transport money and Mr. Chakanyuka from FICA at times gives me his personal money in order to for me to travel there.
I also have my own health challenges, I am hypertensive and my blood pressure is usually high as I think about the future of these two children I am currently caring for. Things are just difficult for me, at times I feel I cannot handle them myself. My brother at times assists me with rentals, he has his own family, a wife and three children. As a result, he cannot afford to fend for all of us, so this is the war that I face on a daily basis. I always wonder to myself that if I were to die today what is going to happen to these children. I believe they will stop having decent meal on the day I am buried and may have challenges finding a place to stay. My wish (…in tears).. for these children, my biggest wish is they find a place to stay and also be educated. If God is to take me away from them, at least they should have grown up and have their own jobs and places to stay.”