Naledzani Ratombo, 27, and her elder daughter Fhulufhelo, 11, after receiving a donation of food. PHOTO: ANA-Health-e News

LOUIS TRICHARDT - Although she is recovering from tuberculosis, Naledzani Ratombo, 27, of Mashau village outside Louis Trichardt, is battling to feed and house her two children. 

The sick mom is facing several challenges, ranging from a shortage of food, a broken house, no proper sanitation and on top of this she is ridiculed by her community for being unable to provide proper care for her two young daughters.

After recent heavy rains in Vhembe, part of Ratombo’s shelter collapsed, leaving her to share the remaining space with her two daughters, aged 11 and 10. This has added to her stress and she believes this places the children at higher risk of contracting TB from her.

Over the years Ratombo used to skip her TB treatment and would become weak and sick to the point where her children had to look after her. Ratombo and her daughters survive on child grants. But she says it is not enough to support the three of them, and they sometimes have to go for days without food.

“Some days we go to bed hungry as the child grant money is not enough to last us for the entire month. It is so painful having to take medication on an empty stomach, but sometimes I am left without any other choice but to take them without eating as I do not want to skip treatment again,” said Ratombo, who has learnt the importance of continuing to take her medication regularly.

Ratombo said the difficult situation at home has impacted her 10-year-old daughter badly, and the child is battling to cope and is now failing at school. 

Because they don’t have a toilet at home, Ratombo and her daughters have to use the bush near their home, which Ratombo says puts them at risk of being attacked and raped.

“I walk with fear every time I go to relieve myself in the bushes as I know that it is not safe. But I fear mostly for my daughters, as they are young and will not be able to fight for themselves,” she said.

Ratombo has been applying for an RDP house and a toilet for years without success. The mother of two said that her dilapidated old shack is not a suitable home for a family. 

“We sometimes find snakes inside the shack as it has many holes and it’s not safe for us, as we sleep on the floor. 

"But my biggest worry is that people might break in and attack my daughters as they know that I am sick and I cannot do anything to protect them. I also worry that if I die in this situation my kids will be left to suffer alone as even their father has deserted them. I pray every night that God will give me strength to carry on until they are old enough to look after themselves,” she said.

Concerned villager Jonas Mugovhani said he has been assisting Ratombo to apply for an RDP house for the past five years. “I have done everything I can to help the family to have a shelter without success. I have even tried approaching business people to build them a house, but no one seems willing to help them. I normally buy them food as I can see that they are starving,” he said. 

The family started receiving food from a local feeding scheme from the beginning of May. 

– ANA-Health-e News