At the age of five, Chifuniro lives in pain and can hardly walk. She is physically challenged, but her disability can be reversed. Our Correspondent TEMWA MHONE tells her story.
Chifuniro of Wisiki Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Machinjiri in Blantyre, could have been walking by today. She was born with both her feet facing backwards and without a right knee, a condition known as gait.
She lives a difficult life. She is always bare-footed and in deep pain. She hardly walks.
While her peers are on their feet to and from nursery school, Chifuniro is on her mother’s back. Her 29-year-old mother Patricia Timothy says it is now three years since Chifuniro got some treatment at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), where doctors managed to bring her feet forward.
“The doctors did a good job, but they told me it is a process for her to be fully healed. After the initial treatment, doctors advised me to take her to the hospital everyday for checkup and physiotherapy. It was hard for me to walk to and from QECH every day because I cannot afford transport.
“However, I tried until we reached a stage whereby doctors understood my situation and said I should bring her every Thursday. But still, this was not easy for me to make. I failed to make it for a number of weeks and eventually stopped,” says Timothy.
She explains that doctors at QECH managed to bring the feet to normal position and plant an artificial knee on her leg.
However, Timothy says although the feet are now in normal position, there is still need for more treatment and physiotherapy for the girl to walk effectively. She says the treatment she got failed to make her use the lower part of the feet for walking, but instead, the upper part rests on the ground when she tries to walk.
Timothy says she was referred to Beit Cure for more treatment and says: “At Beit Cure, doctors assured me that they can help Chifuniro to walk successfully. They even gave her shoes to help her walk while getting the treatment, but I stopped taking her to the hospital because of the distance and lack of transport. I live in pain that the girl is growing older and it will be hard to treat her when her bones mature as said by one of the doctors.”
Timothy asks well-wishers to support her take the girl to and from the hospital for treatment. She sells roasted maize along Robert Mugabe Highway at Bangwe Secondary School, and says the returns are peanuts to help her meet the travel costs to the hospital.
Timothy Nyula, Chifuniro’s father says he used to sell roasted sweet potatoes at Bangwe Market but spent all the income to save his daughter such that he now lives on piece work which only gives him little to keep the family going.
“There was time, when a well-wisher came to our rescue by taking her to an organisation in Blantyre City to seek help. He took the girl, but did not allow us to go with him. When he returned, he said he will update us, but up to now we have heard nothing. The girl claims the man was given money for her, but he did not give her,” he says.
Nyula believes the man used Chifuniro to get the money for his personal gains as he alleges that the man opened a big grocery later. Apart from the man, the family says it has approached many others to help them with transport to take their daughter to hospital, but no one has lived to it.
As Chifuniro turns six years next year, Timothy fears for her future saying the closest primary school, Bangwe Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), is five kilometres away from her home.
“She deserves better, at her age she needs to do most of the things alone. She is growing old and there is still time to save her future. If there are people willing to support her, please come forward. The future of the country is in girls,” says Chifuniro’s mother.
Currently, Chifuniro attends free nursery school at Bahasi about 300 metres from her home and dreams to become a nurse. In an interview, Chifuniro who looked thwarted wondered why she lives in that condition. She says some of her friends attack her disability when there is a misunderstanding and says she wants to be like any other girl.
“What I am going through has taught me that there is need for more nurses. I want to be one of them in the future to help many people,” said Chifuniro amidst tears.n