Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Christmas?, Baby Weighing

23 December – Kossouka, 9:51pm

Well, I can tell you that it doesn't feel at all like Christmas is around the corner. It's hot. It's sunny. Snow is something people might have seen in a photo or on TV once. I've yet to see a Santa Clause or a reindeer or any kind of shopping countdown. It's refreshing, but also kind of takes the joy out of the holidays. Sorry, friends and family, I can't afford to send you anything from Africa yet, but I promise that next Christmas I will shower you in exotic fabrics and Burkina Faso backpacks. If you send me your measurements I could even have my CoGes president make you something! As of right now, he's the only tailor I know, but I'm sure there are more. I'm actually kind of hoping there are more – it seems very biased of me to pay him as a tailor when I'm going to be working with him all the time.

I met a guy today who works for the government to check the effectiveness of the food distribution programs for pregnant women and new mothers. His clothing gave him away as being a functionare (government worker) of some sort, although I guessed teacher and health agent before he corrected me and said he was from Ouaga. I got his phone number and email, and I actually do want to call him up and get his results. He said he had seen our swear-in on TV - I bet he recognized the shirt I was wearing since it was the fabric we all used for our outfits that day.

I watched baby weighing and vaccination this morning. I don't think I'll ever be able to do this on my own! It was way more complicated than it was in Nakaba, with a huge crowd and everything being recorded in several notebooks and then being passed from Salmata (the midwife) to David (the...not sure, maybe another adjoint nurse?) for vaccinations where he somehow seemed to know what each child was getting without even looking at the notebooks. I bet I could eventually get down the baby weighing, even the filling out of recommendation sheet for the CREN, but I sincerely hope that they don't think I'm going to learn to do injections (I'm kind of relieved that Peace Corps recommends against us doing them).

We had a few kids getting PlumpyNut rations for the week (who didn't necessarily look terribly underweight until you saw how old they were), but only one “skeletal” baby being referred out. I still really can't comprehend how children get to this state, especially with the relative access of resources. I know there are lots of factors, some of which I might eventually comprehend, but this child was 2 ½ years old and weighed 11 pounds. 11 pounds! Some babies in the US are born close to that weight. She truly looked like all those photos you see of starving African babies, like an old woman trapped in a baby's body, with all of her teeth crowded into that tiny mouth, and her giant eyes, and her impossibly skinny limbs. She didn't even have the distended belly anymore, her skin was slack and stayed wrinkled, indicating her severe dehydration. Yet she didn't seem all that distressed, just kind of quietly looking around. I think she just didn't have the energy to be upset at the poking and prodding. Her weight for height measurement, a malnutrition indicator, put her below the 60th percentile, meaning that she weighed less than 60% of what she should for her height, even with a height that has been stunted by malnutrition in the first place. And even though it was terrible and sad, it didn't affect me the way I thought it would. Maybe if I had known her before I would have felt more emotional, but it was just kind of a given. Here I am watching babies being weighed in Africa, here's the starving one they always take photos of, here's the cute happy one who's smiling at me, awww...that one over there looks like he's going to start bawling if I look at him for too long so I better look away... It just wasn't something that registered emotionally for me, which in itself kind of worried me. I haven't become that jaded from the pictures on the TV, have I? Now that I'm staring at them two feet away from me?

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