Wanting more for her grandchildren
© UNICEF Mozambique/2012/Mark Lehn
When social services found them, they lived in a shack made of wood planks and a thatched roof, hardly a house. The younger child was severely malnourished.
If there is anything you can say about
Melina is that she has character. When
social workers came over to her house
to check up on her and provide food
support, she ran, fast, thinking they were
after her grandchildren. In her extreme
vulnerability, Melina reacted viscerally
in order to protect her young. Many
grandmothers in Mozambique are like
Melina, who due to poverty or HIV/
AIDS, often become mothers to their
- I am proud of having them, she says.
In her late seventies, she does whatever
she can for her three grandchildren, aged
between 2 and 10, whose parents died in
2010. When social services found them,
they lived in a shack made of wood planks
and a thatched roof, hardly a house. The
younger child was severely malnourished.
Since then, the family has received food
assistance, including infant formula, and
the process of finding a plot of land to build a new home for them is underway.
Melina and her children have since moved
to a tiny, one-room house that a neighbour
kindly lent them, but it is too small for 4
True to her nature, Melina has found
yet another reason to fight with social
services. But wilfulness has perhaps served
her well, a trait that can come in handy
when caring for three young children
with minimal resources. Social services
had identified a house for Melina, but she
refused to take it, even though it was safe
and comfortable. The house was one of ten
reserved for elderly dementia patients, and
Melina refused to have the children "in that
environment". Senility is often associated
with witchcraft in this remote part of
Mozambique. Social services finally had no
choice but to relent.
It is clear to everyone that all Melina really
wants is for her grandchildren to grow up
in an environment that is healthy, childfriendly,
and close to their support network
of neighbours and friends, whom she has
often relied on.
Meanwhile, the three children have
been given proper birth certificates, and
the older ones are in school. They also
have mosquito nets, which Melina takes
precious care of. The baby is now visibly
well nourished. The middle one writes his
name on a paper, and shows it around.
The grandmother is in awe and can hardly
contain her pride, as the neighbours
applaud the 8-year-old boy.
As for Melina, she will never stop
demanding the very best for her
- I want more food, blankets, clothing and
school. I want more of everything, she says
No one can argue with that.