“I cried,” admits Raed without shame. A grown man in his late 50s, Raed works hard to support and maintain his family in Midan, a poor district in Aleppo, which during a recent and long battle was among the most affected by the bombings.
The bullets did not spare him either. They traveled through his body and can still be found in his shoulder, lung and liver. The bullets have been there for a while because to remove them, Raed would need an operation he cannot afford. He had to learn to live with them. Now a painful hernia keeps him up at night and forced him to stay in bed for weeks. A new health issue that is separate from the bullets. During the Aleppo siege recently, when water was scarce, Raed had to transport heavy containers of drinking water from the collection sites to his home. At home and waiting for him were his 5-year-old daughter and wife.
"I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy when the doctors gave me the news", explains Raed. “Finally, I will be operated. I waited for my turn for too long".
Raed’s tears are not a surprise in Syria, where to get an operation, even the most simple of operations, is almost impossible. The last report published in November by the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirms the reality of the ceaseless health crisis. Less than half of the hospital structures are still fully functional, which is clearly not enough to treat the over 11 million Syrian currently in need of care. This dramatic statistic is the result of the constant bombing of the health facilities, the fleeing of most doctors and nurses, and the difficulty in finding medicine.
After a year and a half of being held hostage by rebels, Adelo was a ghost of herself.
“I was 15 when they kidnapped me, but I already had two children, one just a month old," remembers Adelo. "I left them with my mother. They forced me to kill and torture my people. They made me feel worse than them, cursed. They raped me. I was infected by HIV. I never thought I would survive. And let alone one day see my boys graduate and leave these huts to go to university."
It is almost noon; the sun is hot above the expanse of plates and red soil lying on the hill of Kireka, a suburb of Kampala. Adelo smiles. Adelo who became Ketty, Ketty Adong.
“I changed my name when I escaped from the forest,” she says, sitting on a bench in her brick hut in the heart of the Acholi slum.
A shanty town without running water, sewers and inhabited mostly by women of the Acholi race, the same as the rebels, the most massacred race during the civil war that for nearly twenty years has bathed in blood their land. The insurgents kidnapped, enlisted and made these women their own women, as the government crammed them into inhuman camps before destroying their villages in search of the militia. Women who arrived exhausted from the north, where the fighting raged, found refuge on this hill overlooking a huge stone quarry. Rose Busingye welcomed them. Rose is a Ugandan nurse, who dispenses care and attention at her International Meeting Point, a local NGO and AVSI Foundation partner.
With a magnetic gaze, Rose is venerated here like a laic mother Teresa: she is the person who has “liberated” these women from the weight of inhuman experiences, as they sing in a kind of welcome show. Women, who have seen Hell and now dance on stage, allowing themselves to be carried away and dragged by the rhythm of drums and calabashes. It is an explosion of vitality and enthusiasm that you do not expect.
“At first, they wanted to let themselves die,” says Rose. “They did not want to cure themselves, they would sell the antiretrovirals drugs we were giving them”.
And now dance on stage, allow themselves to be carried away and dragged by the rhythm of drums and calabashes.
They could only break stones to survive: 50 kilos of gravel for the equivalent of 70 cents in euros. An entire day breaking their backs was not always enough to take this amount back home. This work was a bestial effort for anyone, a massacre for these HIV-positive women or whom had already full-blown illness. Today, the Acholi slum is different. Ketty, after recounting her story of when she was still Adelo, gets up, opens the door and proudly points to a big boy. Charles Carron meets us, jeans, T-shirt and deep black eyes. He is her eldest son, 18 years old and graduated from a very special high school: Ketty built it herself with the other women of Meeting Point.
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