Today we had several extraordinary and disturbing cases. The first was a girl of 12 years old who is pregnant. The second was a girl of thirteen years old who is pregnant and has already had one child, born prematurely who died at birth.
The only encouraging thing is that they came to us and they will perhaps continue care throughout their pregnancies. After seeing two cases of fistula yesterday and the day before, which are destroying two young girls lives (I hope they will be able to go to the hospital where this operation can be done) We are praying that this will not occur in these two pregnant girls. Sidi is up in arms. He says this is criminal. It is against the law for a girl to be married before the age of 15 in Niger. A good law. It is hard to say whether these girls were married as an arrangement made by the parents or it was something that just happened. It is pretty certain that it was not a decision made by the girls themselves, but it is certainly they who will suffer most. I am sure Sidi will follow up on this.
I only hope that what we say to them and the care they get will make a difference for their future. Education and information are going to be an essential part of our program here at the clinic. This will not be an easy task. Today Bob was trying to encourage a pregnant woman to improve her diet by eating more vegetables. She gave us a puzzled look. It finally came out that she did not know what a vegetable was.
The good news is that more and more pregnant women, who once would not have thought of consulting a doctor during pregnancy, nor at the time of birth, are coming to see us and getting care and prenatal vitamins and iron.