“It had rained the night before and although the sun was up it was the beginning of winter and cold. We were asked by an outreach worker, to visit a desperate family with her. After knocking on the door for a while it was eventually opened and the heartbreaking cry of a hungry baby greeted us. The mother, who did not look well, was sitting on the bed trying to calm the baby with a bottle of water. A 5-year-old boy, who looked small for his age, was standing next to his mother asking for bread.

We noticed that the mother had enlarged glands behind her ears and looked very thin. Her feet were swollen. She was stressed because she had no food for her children or herself. Her breastmilk had dried up and she had no other milk for the baby. There was no food in the house and when we checked the cupboards they were empty. The room was very cold and she had no electricity. She had no grant for the baby.

I always carry a tin of formula with me for emergencies. We were able to make a bottle of milk for the baby. The baby literally gulped down the milk and it was gone in a flash. Soon after, he fell asleep. We referred the mother to the Philani clinic for continuous milk supply. We wrote a referral letter for the mother to be investigated for TB and gave her some money so she could buy food for herself and the older child. We applied for, and she was granted, emergency relief from Philani for three months, while waiting for the child support grant.

The mother is now on TB treatment and the baby is thriving. This mother’s problems are not over, but we have managed to alleviate some of her concerns and will continue supporting her.”