Refugee Voices: Triple the Blessings
20 August 2018

Aisha feeding her triplets
“When the babies came, I was having stress. Only Mama Sangara gave me hope. But I thank God.”

In 1994, Rwanda experienced an unspeakably violent genocide which touched the lives of every family. Aisha witnessed the murder of both of her parents and was raped at the age of 11. After that she fled to Congo, “You just go. You don’t know where you are going. You just see a truck and you get in”. She stayed in the camps there and eventually, in 2003, made her way to South Africa. Immediately she became sick and found out that she had been living with HIV for nine years. She was sent from hospital to hospital for three years. She was experiencing multiple symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, high blood pressure, and extreme weakness. When she began anti-retroviral treatment, she began to recover and was able to start working in shops and rented a small space to live.

Again, she fell sick, and got tuberculosis in her bones and intestines. She had a very difficult recovery. As she was finishing the tuberculosis treatment and continuing to take her anti-retroviral medication, she became pregnant. She had a lot of stress and went to the doctors immediately to check on the health status of her child. When she went for an ultrasound, she was shocked to find out that she was carrying triplets. She was frantic and doubted the doctors. She told them they must be wrong. “How am I going to raise three babies?”, she wondered. During the pregnancy, Aisha’s partner, father of the triplets, was stabbed and went into a coma. She does not know the status of his health or whereabouts today.

At seven months pregnant, the babies were pressing on Aisha’s kidneys, threatening her health. They decided to deliver the babies by caesarian section. The children weighed 1.6kg, 2kg, and 2kg and were cared for in incubators for two weeks. Aisha was extremely weak and couldn’t walk. Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) Healthcare Worker, Marcelline Sangara, was by Aisha’s side every step of the way. Aisha reflected, “When the babies came, I was having stress. Only Mama Sangara gave me hope. But I thank God.” JRS provided physiotherapy to Aisha so that she could regain her strength and physical abilities. The three children needed daily injections for post-exposure prophylaxis for their first six months of life. These too were provided and administered by JRS.

Since then JRS has provided Aisha financial support for food and rent. Aisha stays in a one bedroom space with her three children and another renter. In reference to her life today, Aisha says, “It’s very difficult, but there’s nothing I can do. The important thing in South Africa is if you have a place to sleep, you can survive.” The three children are strong, moving around, and beginning to talk. Aisha is also involved in the JRS support group for women who have experienced and survived sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) which she attends on a weekly basis. She hopes to send her children to crèche so that she can start working and gain financial independence. When asked about what brings her hope she said, “I can know every month I have JRS. Even though it is small, I am okay.” 

Sarah Garwood

Intern Advocacy & Communications Officer

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