ARUA. A 11-year-old boy Sunday Dradriga should be at school, but is not because he has to perform the roles of parenthood.
His mother and two siblings are blind. His father is not man enough to take care of the family. This leaves Dradriga the only responsible member of the family to take care of the home daily.
“I am now the second head of this home because my mother is blind and my father cannot afford all the basic necessities. I cannot go to school because I fear that my other siblings will stay hungry,” he said. Adding I have to wake up at 7am to fetch water, bathe the children and then start cooking. And this is only if there is something to cook. It is a huge daily task.”
At their home in Olevu Village, Odupi Sub-county, Arua District, Dradriga sorts out vegetables which the blind mother Ms HellenTiko, 41, picks from the compound to feed the family.
“Even when our third born goes to school, he cannot see what the teacher has written on the black board. I don’t have uniform and our father cannot even afford scholastic materials. This is the life we live,” laments the 11-year-old.
A visit to the home of the 62-year-old Marino Ocitia, rocked in poverty reveals a very bleak future for the family.
Eating meat or fish is unheard of for the rest of the year except during Christmas or Easter. The family feeds on boiled vegetables and beans everyday.
Clothing for mother, father and children is a luxury and their dwelling is a shanty mud and wattle grass-thatched hut. There is no toilet and the family has to wait until nightfall to hide behind the hut for a bath.
The children bathe in the open compound or at a nearby stream. The hut was thatched 20 years ago and its leaky roof makes it an undesirable shelter for mankind.
The family only received some new clothes from good Samaritans who were carrying out research in the area for their organisation.
Speaking to Daily Monitor at his home on Tuesday, Mr Marino said the family was in need of urgent medical care.
He said he could not afford taking his blind children and wife for eye checkup in Arua Town for lack of money.
He said he expects some money from sale of tobacco by end of September.
“I am only planning to have some money from the tobacco plantation. But even, this money cannot be enough to feed, get medical treatment and clothing of the children and us the adults,” he said.
Out of the six family members, three need eye check-up and surgery. Out of the four children, two are blind. Three of the children have bulging bells with dotted hair, a symptom of malnutrition.
The compound is strewn with every reminder of poverty. Malnourished children dressed in tatters and other stark naked are an undeniable testimony of impoverishment.
The father too, wears torn clothes. His livelihood hands thinly on little proceeds from tobacco sales at end of the season. He has no alternative or additional source of income for survival.
Without a pit latrine, bathroom, proper utensils for cooking and eating, clothing for children and a total weekly expenditure of Shs5,000 or less, it’s unreasonable to ask whether the family gets three meals a day.
The Regional Coordinator for Aids Information Centre, Mr Henry Lulu, who visited the home after identification of the impoverished family, was left shell-shocked.
“The family needs urgent social support in all spheres ranging from basic clothing, food, shelter, hygiene, counseling, family planning, education including scholastic materials and uniforms, health, especially eye assessment and where possible operations and nutritional support for the malnourished,” he said.
He said the future of the four children is bleak unless affirmative action is taken to assist the family.
“Poverty and signs of extreme vulnerability and state of destitution are written all over their faces. Children being denied medical treatment because the parents cannot make it and the children lack clothing. They cannot even go to Universal Primary Education schools or access free health services at government hospitals,” Mr Lulu added.
Officials from the Aids Information Centre called for emergency food relief for the family and healthcare as well because they cannot seek eye treatment in referral Health facilities since they have no clothes to wear outside the home.
Statistics from Arua District population office indicates that poverty prevalence stands at about 40 to 60 per cent among households.