New Year Baby avoids orphanage

By Sister Irene Balzan benin_janvier_baby

The little boy was born on New Year's Day. The birth took place at a rural clinic, about half an hour's journey from our health centre and maternity unit at Zaffe. In keeping with the day he was born, everyone agreed the little boy should be named 'Janvier'.

Tragically, the young mother had a post-partum hemorrhage. There was no doctor at this remote clinic, which is beyond our catchment area and not under our control. A maternal death is the worst possible outcome for everyone concerned in the management of childbirth. The grief of her bereaved husband and children - a girl of about ten, and three younger boys - was echoed throughout the entire village.

The father felt unable to rear the newborn infant. They were a poor family. Tins of infant formula would be far too much for them to purchase. In despair, he came to us asking for money and transport to take the child to an orphanage about an hour and a half away.

The baby was crying in my arms as I sat down outside their home to talk to this heartbroken man, burdened with his great loss. I asked him if he really wanted to part with his infant son. Did he realise how much the child would lose by not growing up in his village, among his own people?

benin_janvier_6months_and_auntClearly, the father really wanted to keep and look after the baby. It seemed the biggest problem was the cost of the milk. That problem, we assured him, could be overcome.

In the family compound at their village, the father's elder sister said she would be happy to care for the infant. The baby's big sister said she would love to help. His brothers were happy to have the new baby home.

We set aside a fund to provide the milk little Janvier would need. His father said he could buy it himself for some of the time. Our outreach team visited their home village regularly, checking on the baby's progress.

When Janvier was six months old, his aunt put on her best clothes and came to our health centre at Zaffe to show us all how he was thriving. Janvier didn't smile for the camera, but he looked healthy. We knew he was guaranteed a loving family upbringing thanks to the generosity of our donors who made it possible for us to save him from being sent to the orphanage.