South Africa: Homebased Care, Accompanying Refugees with Ill-Health into the New Year
07 January 2016

Madeline and her husband Joseph Kamwanga. Madeline is holding, Dieumerci, their youngest son who is completely paralysed and lives with severe brain damage as a result of Hydrocephalus. Seated with them is Patience Kambyala, their grandson, who is living with HIV as a result of poor screening, preceding a blood transfusion he needed, two years ago. (Gushwell F. Brooks/Jesuit Refugee Service)
The physical and psychological trauma that refugees and asylum seekers are put through, leave them with – at times – lifelong dire consequences. These ailments do not relent at Christmas or as we usher in the New Year and so Marcelline and Janine, are equally unrelenting in the support they give those we assist in our homebased programme.

Johannesburg, 7 January 2016 – Johannesburg is only now emerging out of its quiet slumber as the holiday season is winding down and work, trade and industry commences into the New Year. The customary hustle and bustle that defines Johannesburg has not been fully re-ignited as many are still enjoying their extended break emerging from the Christmas season and the New Year. However, the Jesuit Refugee Service’s (JRS) two professional homebased caregivers, Marcelline Sangara and Janine Kukasheta, selflessly continued their mission of accompanying refugees and asylum seekers with chronic medical ailments, while most were enjoying their leisure time.

Madeline and her husband Joseph Kamwanga arrived in South Africa during September 2010. Madeline explains why they needed to flee their home in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC):  “People were being slaughtered like goats and chickens, we could not continue living there, we had to run for our lives.” Madeline and Joseph lost their first two children as a result of the conflict.

The memories of the tragic events that drove the Kamwanga’s out of the DRC, become too much for Madeline to bare. Clutching their youngest son in her arms, Dieumerci, Madeline cries inconsolably as she remembers the brutal rape and murder of her daughter. Duimerei is living testament to the tragedy they left behind in the DRC. Dieumerci was only two months old and tied to his mother’s back with a blanket. As Madeline was running from an attack on their village, the blanket became undone and her two month old infant fell from her back. Today, Dieumerci is completely paralysed and lives with severe brain damage as a result of Hydrocephalus, suspected to have been caused by a head injury as a result of his fall.

Médecins Sans Frontières, initially treated Dieumerci and tried to assist under very difficult circumstances. Madeline explains: “Dieumerci cried non-stop for an entire month after the fall. He was eventually given sleeping tablets just so that he could get some sleep. He is still on chronic medication to this day.”

The family’s medical woes do not end there though. Patience Kambyala will be 6 years old in less than two weeks and is the Kamwanga’s grandson. He is a happy and normal boy and his medical affliction would ordinarily go unnoticed. When he was 4 years old, he fell severely ill and became anaemic as a result. He needed a blood transfusion, however, a full screening of the blood he received was not done and so he received blood from a donor living with HIV. Today, Patience is HIV positive and – with current medical knowledge and treatments available - would have to spend the rest of his live using anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).

Jeremiah, Dieumerci’s elder brother, aged 14 years old, has a huge scar running from his left nostril to the top of his upper lip. He is epileptic and during one of his seizures as a younger child fell and landed on a rock, injuring his face severely. The Kwamwangas, hope that reconstructive surgery can repair Jeremiah’s severe scar one day.

Joseph lives with chest pains, hypertension, arthritis and kidney stones and he attributed his medical woes to the trauma the family has been put through. “We see these things clearly in our minds. It still affects us although time has moved on.” The deaths of their children, the brain injury to their youngest – an injury that will make him dependent on their care for as long as he lives, the epilepsy and HIV they their grandsons live with as well as the rape of their daughter, all these traumatic experiences have left deep psychological scars with the Kwamwangas.

Marcelline and Janine continued to provide support to the Kwamwangas and other families that are in dire need of JRS’s medical support. The physical and psychological trauma that refugees and asylum seekers are put through, leave them with – at times – lifelong dire consequences. These ailments do not relent at Christmas or as we usher in the New Year and so Marcelline and Janine, are equally unrelenting in the support they give those we assist in our homebased programme. 







Press Contact Information
Gushwell F. Brooks
gushwell.brooks@jrs.net
+27 11 618 3404