Freed from Hiding in Tanzania

By Dylan Bedell, MiracleFeet Communications Intern

While we love the light-hearted stories of patients and families helped by MiracleFeet around the world, we are sometimes reminded of the urgency and gravity of the problem of disability in some parts of the world. This is a story where the fear of the unfamiliar shattered a family, but love and generosity eventually changed lives.

Majaliwa was born in April 2012 in the Kigoma region of Tanzania with a case of bilateral clubfoot. In his village, a child born with a birth defect is considered “cursed.” At Majaliwa’s birth, the midwives assisting his mother assured both her and her husband that the condition could be fixed, but Majaliwa’s father was not convinced. Nobody in their clan was ever born with such a condition and he believed this curse on their child would bring shame to himself and their family.

Despite information from health workers about clubfoot and its treatabiity, Majaliwa’s father told his wife to choose: either kill Majaliwa or the pair would separate and the child would grow up without a father. Majaliwa’s mother chose to separate from her husband rather than allow the death of her child. She journeyed to the neighboring village to live with her grandmother, but remained in hiding with Majaliwa to shield him from his father’s anger.

Majaliwa’s father continued to search for his child, sending multiple people to discover their hiding place so he could put an end to the “curse” on his family. This search persisted until Majaliwa’s mother reported her husband to the village executive officer, who then alerted the police to the father’s murder mission.

When confronted about his plan, Majaliwa’s father agreed to call off his attacks towards Majaliwa, but swore that “from that day on he would not be involved in anything concerning Majaliwa or any of their other children” and disappeared for good.

Following advice from health workers present at Majaliwa’s birth, his mother took him to nearby Kabanga Hospital when he turned two years old to seek treatment. Due to lacking resources, they were referred to Maweni Hospital, located 100 km (roughly 62 miles) from their home village. The cost of the journey to and from Maweni was too great for Majaliwa’s mother at the time, so they returned home where she continued to work and collect money for their journey. It took her two more years to save enough money to take Majaliwa to Maweni Hospital. After reaching the hospital and being seen by doctors, Majaliwa was referred again to Bugando Hospital, located 500 km (310 miles) from their village.

Understandably, this came as quite a shock to his mother who was struggling to make ends meet to get treatment for her son, but she kept repeating “I will walk with my child until the last drop of my life” to keep her faith and hope alive.

Many people from Majaliwa’s village were moved by the family’s story and his mother’s campaign to get treatment against all odds. The local pastor along with other friends arranged for a phone and funds for Majaliwa’s mother to help her reach Mwanza with her son while remaining in contact with the family she would leave behind during the treatment.

Finally in December of 2016, Majaliwa and his mother reached the orthopedic clinic in Uvinza with the specialists in the Bugando Physiotherapy Department – a MiracleFeet-supported clinic.

Majaliwa has now finished treatment and is living his life out in the open. No longer hiding from the threats on his life; no longer “cursed” to his village. He thrives alongside his older brother, Jacob (age 7) and his overjoyed mother. Majaliwa’s mother has won the battle she has been fighting for five years to achieve: changing the outlook of her son’s life for good.