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Siblings in unending agony

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SEEKS HELP—Overstone (right)

By James Mwale:

Twenty years ago in Dickson Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Masula, about 15 kilometres from Malingunde in Lilongwe Rural, the Ngozo family celebrated the birth of their first-born son, Overton, before his two siblings followed.

Ten years later, Overton lost his father to leprosy, and that was the beginning of what was to be a life of agony for two brothers and their sister.

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A year after the death of their father, who was their sole breadwinner, Overton dropped out of school in Standard One after suffering from a chronic infectious disease that mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes.

“The children were all born in perfect physical form with no sign of any defect. It was after their father’s death that Overton started showing signs of leprosy,” says Geoffrey Matemba, a long-time neighbour of the Ngozo family.

For over six years now, Overton has endured the condition, which keeps deteriorating each passing day.

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“His fingers started wearing out before they fell off one after another. Now, he has lost all his 10 fingers. The condition then started eating up his skin and has now spread throughout his whole body,” Matemba explains.

Overtone’s mother, Namanjasi, remarried a father-of two who, according to Matemba, barely provides for his family.

He is also allegedly an alcohol abuser just like his wife, who seldom spares time to provide motherly care at home.

The family’s neighbours and the village head claim they have vainly pleaded with Namanjasi’s new husband to consider providing the necessary support to his stepchildren.

Apparently, he openly says the children under his real custody are those that he bore with his first wife and that no other exist as far as he is concerned.

When Overtone was taken to a nearby health centre, he was referred to Mlare Hospital in Mitundu, where he failed to go because his mother could not afford a cumulative transport fare of K4,000.

One of the people who have been following Overtone and his siblings’ plight is Bishop Jacques Jackson, founder of Endless Life Pentecostal Church in Malingunde.

The preacher, who is Matemba’s brother-in-law, says he is always glad seeing people, including church members, reaching out to those in need such as Overtone and his siblings.

“After learning about the children’s situation, we visited and assisted them with assorted items such as sugar, maize, salt and tablets of soap,” Jackson says.

He pledges that the support— given twice already—is not the end of charity work towards the destitute children.

Apart from what they have so far received from the church, Overtone’s family survives on earnings it makes from doing piece-work such as herding goats.

They earn an average of K10,000 annually which also comes in instalments, according to their mother.

Before Overtone’s condition got worse, he used his little earnings to construct a small raw-brick hut where he and his brother sleep.

“Today, my hands can’t hold anything. So, when my brother, my mother and my sister are not around, I can’t bathe, eat or change clothes. They do that for me,” Overtone says.

His worsening skin condition also emits a bad smell which attracts flies and keeps his peers at bay. The stigma terribly troubles him.

His sister also struggles to undertake household chores such as fetching water and cooking, as the mother of the house is often out.

A bigger challenge is crippling her potential: The girl’s fingers are also slowly wearing out supposedly from the same condition as her brother’s.

Overtone prays that a remedy will come their way one day.

“The pain is just too much. I sometimes feel this life is not worth living, but I know I have no power to terminate it,” he says, fighting back tears welling up in his eyes.—Mana

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