Uganda

Triple Blessings During a Pandemic

Story and photos by Caroline A. Mwinemwesigwa

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When a single mother of triplets lost her livelihood during the pandemic, she found hope in the Compassion Survival Program.

Over the last six years, single mother, Annet, has experienced more surprise, anguish, pain, and joy than many people experience in a lifetime. She discovered she was expecting triplets only when the medical staff delivered them. She was abandoned by her husband and family, who viewed the triplets as a curse. And she endured threats to their lives when her abusive husband threatened to kill them.

Through it all, Compassion's church partner has remained by her side, protecting her and providing a safe home for her family — even amid a global pandemic.

“Compassion has cared for my life in the COVID-19 pandemic. I only hear about the horror of COVID-19, but I have been fed, I am sleeping well, and I no longer worry about rent. In case the children are sick, the center staff help. We go to the hospital on time. I am so happy,” she says.

Annet used to sell vegetables and fish but the markets closed due to COVID-19. With customers greatly reduced, her business suffered and eventually collapsed. Janet, Businywa child development center Director, helped Annet to find a new income-generating activity.

The church hired a trainer to teach Annet how to make bags from home. Within a week, she had mastered the skill. Within a month, she had made 20 bags. Annet can now make her baskets at home as the children play outside.

basket-weaving
“I have peace. It is a business I conduct from home. I don’t have to worry about going outside looking for customers. If you go out there you can contract COVID-19. I have peace working from home. I can sell and have money to save. I am so happy,” she says. 

It is a vastly different story to the one unfolding six years ago. Annet gave birth to the triplets dramatically. All by herself at home, she gave birth to her first baby boy, Samuel. She called her sister-in-law, Nerima, to help her cut the umbilical cord, but Nerima failed. Annet decided to rush to the nearest health center for help. She sat at the back seat of a motorcycle and held her newborn baby carefully with the umbilical cord still attached and they rode four kilometers down a bumpy road to the health center.

After the nurse had cut the umbilical cord, she told Annet another baby was in her womb. The nurse feared to help Annet deliver the baby because it was in a position she could not manage. That same evening, Annet had to get another motorcycle to travel to a larger hospital for further assistance.

At the hospital, the doctor did a scan and found Annet had two more babies in her womb. This was the first time Annet had a scan since she did not have money to pay for the service. The doctor decided to perform a cesarean, and Annet gave birth to two baby girls — Patience and Grace — each weighing 1.8 kilograms.

When her husband learned Annet had given birth to triplets, he rejected them. Triplets were unheard of in the Businywa community and especially in their family. The family thought the triplets were a curse and cut themselves off from Annet and the children.

When Compassion's church partner discovered what had happened, they stepped in to help. Annet and the babies were registered into the Survival Program. When Annet's abusive husband threatened to kill them, staff protected them and built a safe house they could live in rent free.

HUGS
"I thank God for my sponsor, they care about my children. I feel thankful for the grace. I really didn’t know that we would reach this day alive. The children have grown so much," says Annet.

The triplets are now six years old and Samuel is part of Compassion's Child and Youth Development (CYD) program. The trio is very close and often follow one another around. The children are even sponsored by a set of triplets in Australia.

The single mother is so grateful to the loving support that has seen her family flourish. “I am so happy. If it wasn't for the staff's care, we wouldn't be where we are today. I look back from where I came from and thank God and give him the glory," she says.

"I am now respected in the community. Those who used to diminish me now respect me. Even the father of my triplets no longer tries to attack me. I feel so protected and safe,” says Annet.

The last six years have been challenging, but finally Annet has found happiness, joy, and rest. She is very grateful to Compassion's church partner and her children's sponsors.

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Survival Program

Compassion’s Survival Program supports women from the time they are pregnant through the delivery of their child, and then supports both baby and mother in the first vulnerable weeks and months of life. This includes health screenings, education on how to care for newborns, malnutrition prevention, and more. In addition, mothers have a strong support network around them to help them navigate this new chapter of their lives and any difficulties they may experience.

  • The Survival Program in Compassion Africa is serving 10,517 babies, and 10,406 mothers and other caregivers.
  • In fiscal year 2020 (FY20), 91% of the 3,977 births of babies with mothers in the Survival Program were attended by a skilled attendant or health professional.

Infants and young children in sub-Saharan Africa are often at high risk for malnutrition and death from preventable causes. Complications from childhood can become worse as children grow. Compassion closely monitors the rate and reasons for these challenges. In FY20, we observed that most of the mortality in the children and youth in our program occurs in the first year of a child’s life. We are committed to investing in and strengthening the prevention aspect of our health response, especially in our Survival Program.

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