IMAGINE visiting the toilet and each time you are not sure what you are going to discharge.
This has been the life of two children from Sebelekoane in Mafeteng district for the past eight years. The two girls have been living with anorectal deformities that cause them to relieve themselves abnormally. Although this condition can be medically corrected, they have not been able to get help as their families could not afford the required treatment.
In a third case, one grandmother from the same area has been hiding her two-year old granddaughter from the eyes of the public after the family noticed the condition, which causes a bad odour.
She only revealed the condition while attending a meeting held in Ha Nthonyane village in Sebelekoane where the Minister of Social Development, ‘Matebatso Doti had visited last week to highlight programmes under implementation in her ministry.
The three children suffer from malformations, which occur as an unborn baby is developing during pregnancy. This defect causes the lower part of the digestive tract, namely the anus and rectum not to develop properly. As a result, the three girls discharge both urine and stool through the vagina.
Briefing the visiting Social Development Minister, the Coordinator of Centre for Impacting Lives, Mabele Khaile said apart from the two-year-old they just got to know about during the meeting, the other two girls had not received any medical attention, as the parents could not afford the expenses.
“The parents were told to look for money and take the children in Bloemfontein, South Africa, for further treatment. They however decided to accept their unfortunate conditions as fate because they could not afford the medical expenses,” Ms Khaile said.
As if that was not enough, one of the girls’ parents took their daughter to the clinic after noticing that her navel was growing, but they did not receive much help. It has currently grown to the size of a tennis ball.
“The girls face a lot of challenges because other children at school who do not understand their condition laugh at them. As a result, they have lost interest in school. They have also reported confusion whenever they visit the toilet, because they are not sure what they are going to discharge,” Ms Khaile said.
Speaking at the public gathering, Minister Doti said the plight of the three girls was heart-rending. “What these girls are going through is painful. They should have received some help a long time ago. The fact that they were referred to Bloemfontein for further medical treatment showed that there was a possibility that this condition can be corrected. It is sad that they did not have that opportunity in time to avoid what they are currently going through,” Ms Doti said.
She said under the Social Development’s Public Assistance programme, her ministry provides medical care assistance to people with conditions such as those affecting the three girls.
“These girls are our children. When families’ lack the capacity to help in cases such as these, the government is there to help because children belong to the state. That is why as the Ministry of Social Development we also advocate for the rights of children to be observed and respected because it is also our responsibility to contribute towards securing their bright future,” she said.
Ms Doti said her visit to the village was fruitful as it had allowed her to meet the children and understand their needs.
“This is what my ministry will be doing, bringing our services to you as your servants. We also want families not to hide people with disabilities but to reach out to the Ministry of Social Development for assistance. Despite limited resources, it is important that we know of the difficult circumstances families are facing for us to be able to mobilise additional resources for support,” Ms Doti said.
She said her ministry will follow-up on the three cases to ensure that the girls received medical help.
Also speaking at the event, the Member of Parliament for Maliepetsana Constituency, Mpalipali Molefe thanked the minister and other community members who made it possible for the girls to have hope.
He said cooperation should continue to facilitate a speedy referral process to South Africa for treatment, through support from the government.
“This support is long overdue. We need to work together to make sure that the girls can finally lead normal lives,” Mr Molefe said.
He encouraged the community councilors to continue collaborating with the communities and other partners to connect people in difficult circumstances, including people with conditions that can be corrected medically, with the relevant ministries for them to quickly get help.