In Catumbela, our clinic is filled every day with babies clinging to life as they battle the horrors of malnutrition. They are very frail, never looking as old as they are. All too often, babies who are three or four months old weigh less than most newborns; so weak that they can’t even cry out. Mothers come from miles to bring their starving babies in hope that the clinic might give their baby a chance to know a brighter future. The clinic is littered with single mothers and grandmothers, left to fend for themselves and their children, so full of love for their babies, and so desperate to save them.
But there is change in Angola, a ray of hope that the cycle is breaking with a new generation. On our most recent trip to Catumbela, Sarah and the Saving Moses team were greeted with a sight unheard of in Angola.
When Malachia was only two months old, Moses’ girlfriend left him and their son, leaving the teenager to somehow care for a baby on his own. But Moses is unlike any father who we have ever known in Angola. His love and devotion to his son runs deeper than anyone could have possibly imagined, and he refuses to let anything or anyone harm Malachia.
Moses has known much pain in his life. Under normal circumstances, the responsibility of Malachia would fall upon his grandmother. However, when Moses was only fifteen, his mother passed away, leaving him in the care of his uncle, a man of military background who appears to care very little, if at all, about Moses and Malachia. Being that Moses’ father lives in a different province of Angola, and seems to have no interest in his son, Moses has been left to care for himself. His bedroom resembles a very basic teenager’s room: a queen size mattress on the floor, a small television in the corner, and some small speakers on the floor. He does not have a crib for Malachia to sleep in, so instead he shares his bed with his infant son.
Moses brought Malachia to our malnutrition clinic in Catumbela full of fear for his child, unable to feed him the way his mother could and unsure of his baby’s future. Malachia began treatment for malnutrition with Moses ever by his side, holding close his most prized possession in the world. Malachia is very rapidly improving thanks to the therapeutic formula, but Moses is faced with another dilemma. Alone with his infant son, when could he possibly find time to hold down a job?
Moses has done some small landscaping and construction jobs, but Malachia is the top priority in his life. He is fortunate enough to have a roof over his head at his uncle’s house, but there are other necessities that he needs to acquire. The malnutrition clinics are stocked full of therapeutic formula that can help in feeding Malachia, but they do not have any food for the parents and grandparents who bring them. While most mothers who bring their baby in to the malnutrition clinic have food for themselves and their older children, Moses has no food to bring and no money to buy food with. Even if he did, as only a teenager he does not know how to cook even if he had food.
Before we left Angola, we had a special mission to accomplish. We wanted to make sure that Moses would be able to stay at the clinic with Malachia without going hungry himself, so we stopped by the market and bought a food supply for Moses to keep at the clinic for himself. The mothers at the clinic even offered to teach the young father how to cook all of it.
Moses is a symbol of hope that things are truly changing in Angola. An eighteen-year-old father who has so much love for his baby boy that he gives everything he has to care for him, even after Malachia’s mother abandoned them. If even half of the men in Angola were like Moses, if half of the fathers cared so deeply for their baby, the tide of malnutrition may finally begin to subside. Moses is the first of a new kind of men in Angola, and hopefully he will become an example to fathers not only in Angola, but around the world.