Tuesday, August 15, 2017

One Child at a Time

There are subjects I love to photograph and subjects I don’t love to photograph, such is life.  Humanitarian photography with complete artistic freedom ranks up there as one of my favorite gigs, while “can you take a group photo of us?  Where is the sun?  Ok let’s all stand here squinty eyed facing the sun.  Ok we’re ready… 1… 2… 3… cheese!”, ranks down near the bottom of my list.  Now imagine my joy when I was asked to accompany Touching Tiny Lives Foundation’s (TTL) outreach team on a few nutrition corners.  Needless to say, I was thrilled and jumped at the opportunity.  

Lesotho has a huge problem with HIV and AIDS.  In fact, Lesotho currently has the second highest prevalence rate in the world at 25%.  25%!  I’ll let that sink in for a second…         While there are plenty of organizations out here working to reduce that number, very few organizations work with those most affected by HIV and AIDS, children and babies under 5 years of age.  

I’ve written about TTL and their nutrition corner project in my last blog so I won’t repeat too much here.  A nutrition corner is a monthly gathering of caretakers (mostly mothers but often grandmothers and even siblings) and their babies.  

Photo credit:  Melinda J. who nailed this with a manual focus lens.

The women help with the preparation of a large and nutritious meal.  

A class about nutrition and child development is presented, although not everyone is interested.

Then everyone eats!

With such a high HIV and AIDS prevalence rate combined with the low adherence to the life saving antiretroviral (ARVs) therapy medication, there are a lot of single and double orphans in Lesotho.  Often grandparents must assume the responsibility of the parents.  

TTL is a great organization.  They don’t have a lot of waste (a huge problem with many NGO’s in my opinion) and they produce real results.  

'M'e Matelo of the TTL outreach team plays with a former safe home baby.

TTL has a safe home where they adopt malnourished children for a period of up to 6 months, and in some extreme cases, even longer.  They take the children in and provide them with excellent 24/7 support until the child is healthy enough to return home to the parents or guardians.  Before the children are returned though, the parent or guardian must undergo a training on nutrition and childcare.  

This little girl came into the safe home at 9 months old and 4.3kg (9.5lb).  I took this photo back in November of 2016  when I photographed the TTL staff and safe home babies. 

Photo credit:  Melinda J.

This is her today!  A happy and healthy little girl.  

This isn’t a one time story either.  TTL has helped over 2000 children.  

In a country where 1/12 children never live past their 5th birthday, TTL is working hard to change that alarming statistic.  

TTL outreach team member ’M’e Mamosa filling out some much needed paperwork.

According to the World Food Program, 56% of deaths in children under 5 years of age are related to HIV.  ARVs are free in Lesotho but children often have lapses in treatment because of many factors, a major of which is the parents knowledge of proper HIV and AIDS related care.  There are many myths surrounding HIV and AIDS in Lesotho.  TTL is working to dispel those myths and provide proper health care education to parents and guardians.  

TTL also works with special needs children and babies who need life saving medical procedures.  

This baby boy was born last November at 24 weeks, in a mud hut, to an HIV positive mother.  He also suffers from hydrocephalus, a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid deep within the brain.  This causes swelling of the cranial cavity, which leads to an unusually large head.  

TTL arranged the life saving surgery, which involves the insertion of a flexible shunt.  The shunt allows the fluid to drain into the body where it can be reabsorbed.  As he grows, the shunt will need to be replaced a few times.  For the most part, people living with hydrocephalus live long and normal lives.  

Through the help of donors, TTL is able to support this young boy’s family for all future medical costs.  

If you’re interested in helping Touching Tiny Lives out, please check out their Facebook page or website for more information.  

Working with Touching Tiny Lives has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in Lesotho.  It has been an awesome and eye-opening opportunity being able to tell the story of this fantastic organization through my photography.  

Thanks for reading!


- Joel

No comments:

Post a Comment