|© UNICEF Kenya/2006/Otieno|
|Gabriel, 13, and Anthony, 14, have been living alone since the death of their mother three years ago.|
By Juliett Otieno
ISIOLO, Kenya, 27 July 2006 – Siblings Anthony and Gabriel Koikoi are the best of friends; they can't afford not to be. Since both their parents died three years ago, the two brothers are all that is left of their family.
“Mama had complained of chest pains for a very long time,” 14-year old Anthony recalled. “She tried different kinds of medicines but her condition only got worse.”
Eventually, neighbours took their mother to an Isiolo hospital in Northern Kenya.
“We visited her a few times,” Anthony continued. “One morning we went, and they told us she was dead.”
Now, the two boys live alone, barely surviving. Their relatives were supportive at first, but eventually withdrew into their own lives.
“My uncle lives just a stone’s throw away. Sometimes we go without food and he knows. He does nothing about it,” said Anthony. “All we can count on for food is the porridge we get from Pepo.”
|© UNICEF Kenya/2006/Otieno|
|Anthony and Gabriel standing outside the hut their deceased mother built.|
A ‘Wind of Hope’
Pepo La Tumaini Jangwani (Wind of Hope in the Desert) is a community-based organization in Isiolo that provides care and support for children living with HIV, as well as those orphaned by AIDS.
UNICEF supports Pepo La Tumaini with the nutritional supplement UNIMIX, of which members like Anthony and Gabriel receive a monthly ration. The ration is meant only to supplement an existing diet, but for households with nothing else, the ration often becomes the main meal.
“Sometimes it does not even last two weeks. We either dilute it so that it lasts longer, or we just go hungry until the next ration – unless a good Samaritan helps us,” said 13-year old Gabriel.
Rosa Adapal, 40, has been assigned by Pepo la Tumaini’s programme coordinator Khadija Rama to look into the wellbeing of the boys. Ms. Adapal, however, has a family of her own and can only come by briefly to see how they are getting along.
“We get lonely and sad at times,” Gabriel confessed. ”But we have no choice, we have to go on.”
The story of the two boys was featured on “Where Have All the Parents Gone?”, an hour-long documentary on CNN about the one million children in Kenya who have been orphaned by AIDS as well as the countless others who are living with HIV/AIDS. The documentary, reported by CNN’s chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, began airing on 19 July.
A brighter future
UNICEF is working with Pepo la Tumaini to ensure that children like Anthony and Gabriel receive support and regular meals. Along with a local private sector partner, UNICEF is assisting the organization to expand their transition centre, which will enable the two brothers to move in.
This centre will give them and other children a safe place to receive regular meals, attend school, and have access to counseling. In addition to caring for their current needs, the centre will also help the children plan for a brighter future.
As for their own future plans, Gabriel wants to be a teacher and Anthony wants to be a doctor. Despite their hardships, Anthony offers words of inspiration to other children who have been orphaned, telling them, “Hold on. Do not give up, even if you are alone.”