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Suffering and his grandmother

Delfina receives a monthly pension of 200 Meticais (less than $7), from social action and some assistance from a religious congregation. Otherwise, she and Sofrimento survive on charity.
© UNICEF Mozambique/2012/Mark Lehn
Delfina receives a monthly pension of 200 Meticais (less than $7), from social action and some assistance from a religious congregation. Otherwise, she and Sofrimento survive on charity.

Where is he? Delfina asks insistently. The 80-year old ambles around, in search of her 8-year old grandson. Without him, the visually impaired Delfina cannot find her way.

When the boy was given to her as a toddler, she imagined the life ahead of him, as she tried to decide what to name him. And the only thing that came to mind, that seemed to best match his reality, was Sofrimento, or suffering in Portuguese.

- He has suffered a lot, she explains, seated on the floor of her house in Tete in Northern Mozambique. In the mornings, he had nothing to eat and used to cry all the time. So I gave him porridge, or sugared water, never milk.

Sofrimento came to live with his grandmother after his father died. The mother "went away a long time ago", leaving him with his father.

- I don't know if she is alive or dead, says Delfina.

In the past, Delfina did sporadic work grinding corn to generate some income.

- This was before there was the flour-mill, she says.

Today, she receives a monthly pension of 200 Meticais (less than $7), from social action and some assistance from a religious congregation. Otherwise, she and Sofrimento survive on charity. Every day, her grandson walks her into town hoping for hand-outs from shop owners. Staff at the local social services office, who follow Delfina's and Sofrimento's case, have recently become concerned about Delfina's neighbour, who it turns out is building a house on her property, without her knowledge or consent. So the Municipal Council was alerted and the situation has since been addressed. The shaky and unsafe shack where they lived was also replaced with an improved one made of bricks, thanks to the intervention of social services.

Delfina and Sofrimento are being looked after, but one challenge remains. Despite being enrolled in primary school, Sofrimento rarely attends. He is the one who guides and accompanies his grandmother when they go begging in the streets. When he is not there, she feels helpless and lost.

This is not an uncommon problem for those who find themselves in Delfina's and Sofrimento's situation. Government programmes are therefore being put in place in Tete for children like Sofrimento, who are compelled to be with their disabled parents or caregivers to the detriment of their own schooling, and will be encouraged to study at the Resource Centre for Inclusive Education. At the same time, elderly people will be placed in daycare, so that children living with them are able to attend school.

- I want him to become a good person, and to study, Delfina says. He must have his own job, so I can stop going to the city to beg on the streets.

 

 
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