With support from Loanhead Parish Church we are supporting a family living in one of the poorer areas of Kigali. This is what is known locally as a child-headed household where the children, the eldest in her early twenties, look after the younger siblings.
In the time we have known them, the family has grown. There are now two young children, Jessica aged four and Denis, aged four months.
Yesterday, William who is still at school, brought Jessica to the Scripture Union room where we are staying. She was complaining of a sore head and stomach pains, apparently from drinking the unclean water around the family house. Malaria was suspected as well.
There was little that could be done but put on the sun hat and head off into the valley to the doctor's. On the way, we passed the family house with what is effectively an open sewer running by the front door, and discovered that Denis is also unwell. The child's bum was duly exposed for inspection, and even to an untrained eye, it probably wasn't what a healthy four month bum should look like.
The doctor's surgery was a dusty two-kilometre walk across the other side of the valley. The spartan waiting room contained two wooden benches, a desk and a water cooler in the corner. An ancient television sat inside a padlocked steel frame high in the corner. We were fortunate that the place was quiet and the two children were seen quickly.
After a ten-minute consultation, the doctor emerged from the side room with two prescriptions containing a cocktail of medicines for each child. Denis it appears has worms. Jessica does not have malaria, but she does have front teeth which are rotten to the gum.
These sadly are the almost inevitable consequences for children living in poor housing and where income and food are sporadic. It is a challenge for us to help the family earn sufficient regular income to feed themselves properly. In the meantime, when illness strikes and the cost of medical treatment is beyond many family's means, we can only step in and do what is necessary.