“Mbali”, which in Zulu means flower, is a shy, sweet energetic 12 year old child who lives in the municipality of Matatiele at the foot of the Drakensberg mountains in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. On first appearance she is a seemingly normal child who leads a typical existence within her community and has all the traits of an active pre-teen. The quiet reality is that Mbali, like so many living in this region, has been deeply affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has ravaged much of southern Africa.
Mbali is an orphan due to the loss of her parents to the AIDS virus and was born HIV – positive. Her survival has been made possible due to anti-retroviral treatments and the benefits of drop-in centres put in place by African Solutions to African Problems, a grassroots organization run by local women that provides community-based support for children made vulnerable by the AIDS pandemic in South Africa. On this day, Mbali and her caretaker, Mantsoaki Mosenye pack up for the journey to Mparane Clinc to replenish Mbali’s anti-retroviral medication. The 4-kilometer trip is made twice a month prior to Mbali’s walk to school. The bi-monthly ritual starts a little after 7 with Mbali sifting through her nightstand drawer to find her prescription documents. In little under a minute’s time she produces a plastic bag containing a series of neatly folded pieces of lined paper containing her treatment schedule and required dosages of her anti-retroviral treatment.
Mbali’s caretaker, Mantsoaki Mosenye inspects Mbali’s prescription documents which detail her treatment schedule and required dosages. I wasn’t given much detail about Mbali’s CD4 count beyond the fact that it was “good” and that she has been in good health for some time. Her access to treatment and medication has had a significant impact on her life and the lives of other vulnerable youth in the Eastern Cape.
On the days that Mbali goes to pick up her medication, her journey is made significantly longer as the walk to school is an additional kilometer after reaching the clinic. On these days, her total walk in both directions is 10 kilometers.
Our first steps outside reveal the beautiful landscape of varied terrain that is the Eastern Cape. Rolling hills, vast grassy plains dotted with traditional thatched roof homes and grazing horses that are characteristic of the area around Matatiele. Mbali steps out ahead of us, seemingly anxious to greet the day, full of energy and focused on facing the journey ahead.
Mbali’s caretaker, Mantsoaki Mosenye walks close to Mbali during the walk to the Mparane clinic. Along the way, Mbali walks over varied terrain through fields and on rough gravel roads, encountering wandering livestock along with a plethora of potential hazards. Factors like weather and the seasons can make the journey even more treacherous. At a few points during our trek, we pause for a brief respite to allow Mbali (but mainly me) to rest. I am winded, outdone by my young vibrant companion.
After 2 hours of walking we arrive at the Mparane clinic, a series of new, long narrow buildings behind a fenced in enclosure on a hillside over looking the municipality. Mbali is in and out in under 15 minutes, departing the clinic in a hurried fashion now anxious to get to school on time and settle into her lessons. She takes this all in stride, seemingly completely unfazed by the special journey she has just made or the illness that necessitated the journey in the first place.
Story and photos by Jemal Countess (a New York photographer)
i appreciate the work being done for the OVCs there is need to help them understand the meanining of suffering especially double orphans.i also was was touched by the eagerness and committement to her school work May GOD bless her
Mbali’s story has really touched and i know that there are many orphans like her and they are not serious or committed like her. If our orphans can be committed and dedicated like Mbali, we can overcome our situation
May God richly bless her and her care taker
Woooow very touched by the story of Mbali. To ASAP keep up the good work. Thank you to Mbali’s caretaker. We need such women like her who are more than willing to walk killometers in trying to solve the social challenges facing this country. Doing it patiently and with hope for the better. To Mbali may God bless and protect you throught out. Goodluck mntanomncinci.
with such sad life stories, i feel deeply touched in a personal way as if me and the child share some form of parent child relationship, may God of grace and mercy raise his mighty right hand over the child ‘s situation.AMEN.
I am touched by the little girl’s story and her effort for not giving up in life. May God Almighty continue to bless and strengthens her. Amen. As for the caretaker God in heaven will reward her abundantly amen.
May God continue to comfort and protect her amen. For the caretaker God knows what to do to her
Thank you for your comment and prayers Scholastica. Please spread the word about us amongst your family and friends.
Waooh! What a shocking story. My prayer is that God should continue to strengthens her and her caretaker. Amen.
Thank you for your comment and prayers Emediong. Please spread the word about us amongst your family and friends.
Wooow, that goes to show that, there is a lot that needs to be done in terms of Access to health care. 2 hours to get to the clinic i mean really poor Mbali will be exhausted when she gets to school.
Such an inspirational story indeed. May the Lord shower her with lots and tons of blessings. Maythe Lord protect ang continue guiding them. MuchLove
May the Lord continue blessing them indeed. Much love.
Thank you for your kind words Baky.
God Bless You and the work you do to improve this earth!!
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