- Half asleep, Anuary lies exhausted on his bed in Amana Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital. His mother, Mariam Saidi, sits on the edge of his mattress, staring blankly out of the window. Every now and then, she turns to wipe her 18-month-old son’s forehead.
When she brought Anuary to the hospital the day before, he had a high fever, was suffering from viral diarrhoea, was severely dehydrated and had lost consciousness by the time he was admitted. The doctors saved his life, but he faces a slow discovery.
“Viral diarrhoea and respiratory infections are very common in children here,” hospital director Dr. Meshack Schimwela tells IPS. “Both illnesses are leading causes of death of children under the age of five in Tanzania.”
Anuary’s hospitalisation puts Saidi, a single mother who works as a hairdresser in the slum of Buguruni on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, under severe economic strain. Each day that she spends next to her son’s bed is a day that she does not earn any money.
Already, she struggles to make ends meet with her meagre salary of four dollars a day, which, she says, affords her only one meal a day. “God knows how we will cope,” the 21-year-old tells IPS. “It’s very difficult.”
Anuary’s illness could have been easily prevented had he been immunised against the Rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhoea, commonly known as “stomach flu”. But the vaccine is currently not available through the public health system in this East African nation.