October 5th, 2014. This is an update of the Stunted Girl previously written about and posted here on this site, www.philippinebasicneeds.com . Six months ago, I ‘purchased / leased / rented’ this girl from her parents for a pick axe. Took her in, properly fed her and clothed her.
I had known her since birth and in fact if you look at the original video on this site, you will see her family living in a shack and the mother breast feeding this girl as a baby. She was offered to me to be adopted and I did look into it via a US and Manila based attorney who said the Philippine government would not allow a foreign adoption in this type of case.
Since then I have fed her and clothed her every trip back to Catbalogan. But after I leave the mother sells off the clothes and dresses the girl in rags again. Same as for her older brothers, also mentioned on the www.philippinebasicneeds.com site, and you can read about it in the New Pants for Street Kid post.
By the time I arrived in February of 2014, it was obvious the girl was not only stunted in growth, but also struggling simply to survive. No longer happy and laughing, she was about 42 months old and weighed 20 pounds. This is why I took temporary possession of her. When I am there, the parents are respectful and do what they are told to do. Of course it helps that I feed the girl’s older brothers too. But then as soon as I go, the past way of life is resumed and it is business as usual.
Currently, the girl weighs about 15 pounds. FIFTEEN POUNDS / 6.8 kilos and she is now 4 as of August 10th. Even considering a possible scale error, she has not grown in the past 6 months and she has lost weight as she was weighed on the same scale. She has a chronic lung infection as does her mother. I have tried to get TB testing done but all I hear are excuses.
She was hospitalized 2 weeks ago for a week or so for IV medications and at that time the doctor said she had pneumonia. She is covered under the national health plan called PHILHEALTH, but…… if the hospital pharmacy has no medications, as they often claim, then the fact she has any ‘insurance’ coverage at all is moot as there are no medications in the hospital pharmacy. Therefore, patients and their families must buy, daily, any prescribed medications at local pharmacies and they are not reimbursed by Philhealth. So the father comes to the charity people that run the charity for me asking for money.
Money can not be given directly to him or his wife and it will be divided into food and alcohol and then medications. So the family that I have running the charity has to go and buy the medications and then deliver to the nursing staff. And you can buy only 1 day worth of medicine, as if you give more than one days medicine to the parents, they will sell the medicine to other families in the hospital who may have a script for the same medications. Then tomorrow they say the medicine was stolen and they need more.
As of now, the girl is sick and eats little even though the charity has proper food. The mother has no faith in the hospital doctors so she is taking the girl to a local witch doctor who is claiming the girl has been poisoned. While I doubt the poison theory, I can say that in the past 2 years several under 5 yrs old kids have ‘died at night’, suddenly all living in 100 meters of this girls shack, and the kids are simply buried by local custom with no formal authority looking into the death.
During my February 2014 trip when I took the girl, I treated her for active pneumonia and intestinal parasites and worms. But when I left the parents again took her. Why? Well even though anyone can see she is better off with me or the family that runs the charity, where she eats well and sleeps clean and dry and will one day go to school, she represents MONEY to the parents.
The family is professional beggars who have used their children as street beggars for years. Again, in looking on the www.philippinbasicneeds.com site you see One Eyed Victor and the story on how I paid to have his eye removed. He is one of this girl’s older brothers. While yes it is good to have his eye fixed (see the pictures on the site), by fixing his eye, it lowered his earning potential as a street kid begging for money. I do have questions and never got any answer as to just ‘how’ One Eyed Vic got his eye damaged. Was it intentional to increase his begging earnings? What about this girl? Why failure to thrive? Why stunted when her brothers are not stunted? We may never know why or how the girl not only became as she is today, but more so, why is it allowed to continue?
Interestingly, this same mother has two older daughters who she took to Manila as young teens to find employment as house maids. She of course was supposed to get their money and of course that never happened and the Manila social workers eventually took possession of the two sisters, now, 16 and 19 and warehoused them until the older girl turned 18 and then shipped both back to… you guessed it, this same mother as the older one did not qualify for assistance any more and as now an adult, she was told to accept responsibility for the younger sister.
I have again renewed my efforts to get this girl proper medical evaluation and treatment. However I do not see long term success as long as the parents are still the primary care givers. The local DSWD (welfare people) office staff are aware of the situation, but to them, this is but 1 of many such cases. Limited budget and limited resources, they do not seem to be much actual help in rescuing this child, named Jessa Mae, which I seriously doubt, will see her 5th birthday.
Any ideas? Let me know.