A 13-year-old forced to become mom’s caregiver

File Photo.

Outside the City of Mbombela in the KaMsogwaba community the single mother, who has only one daughter, suffered a debilitating stroke last February. Unable to work anymore, she is now cared for by her child.

Daughter *Nomfundo Masinga (not her real name) said “Our current situation is stressing me. I can’t cope in class and I don’t get enough sleep because I am constantly scared that my mother will go to sleep and not wake up.”

Nomfundo said that only after her mother suffered a second stroke just over four months ago did she discover that they are both HIV positive. She was told by the nurse who treated her mother.

The mother, Muntuza Masinga* (not her real name), said she had fallen pregnant in 2003 when she was 14 years old. At the time she was diagnosed as HIV positive and told to take a single dose of Nevirapine while in labour. She refused, and Nomfundo was born HIV positive.

“I was advised about the safe option of feeding my newborn and given Nevirapine syrup to give her for 28 days. But without money to buy formula milk, I end up breastfeeding her and never gave her the Nevirapine. At six weeks old she was again diagnosed with HIV,” the mother explained.


Now Nomfundo has to take care of her mother Muntuza. Relatives pray for them, and neighbours who used to help no longer do so as Muntuza has a boyfriend who has accused them of bewitching her and causing her stroke.

“Now we keep our distance,” said neighbor Sarah Twala.

When Nomfundo was nine months old her mother was still not giving her the treatment she needed for her HIV infection, and so a friend took the child into her care for five years to ensure that she was given the medication she needed. Nomfundo was returned to her mother shortly before her sixth birthday.

“At that time I was unemployed and had no social grant,” said Muntuza, explaining that neither she nor Nomfundo has proper South African identity documents.

“Although my mother was a South African and I was born in (Chris Hani) Baragwanath Hospital, still we are not recognized as South African. My mother died without an ID and every time I tried applying for an ID and certificate for my daughter, the Home Affairs Department did not assist because I couldn’t produce the documents they required. Because of these issues, my daughter and I continue to live in hunger because without South African documents we can’t access social grants and no relative has been able to help,” said Muntuza.

Muntuza has been left bedridden since her stroke, paralysed down one side of her body. She needs assistance from Nomfundo for everything and has slowly started regaining her strength.

Nomfundo is finding life challenging as she tries to keep up with her schooling and look after her mother. She said when she is away from home friends bring her mother alcohol, and she fails to take her ARV medication properly. Muntuza’s boyfriend also discourages her from taking her ARV’s and sometimes takes her to sangomas.

No delivery

According to Muntuza, they have been promised food parcels monthly by their local social development office but nothing has ever been delivered. Before she suffered her second stroke Muntuza would walk to a dumping site call “esibhobozweni” which is situated in Tekwane, about 15kms away. There she would scrabble for dumped food. Now that no longer happens.

Nomfundo said she was grateful to know her HIV status as she is now on treatment.

“I have made a promise to my mother and myself that when I grow up I want to be a social worker so that I can help families who are less fortunate and come from underprivileged background,” the child said.

Neighbour Fikile Ngobeni said she had reported the plight of mother and daughter to Social Development in Msogwaba, and even pleaded with the social worker who was assigned to the case – but still, the little family has received no help at all.

Lay counsellor Ronnie Nkosi said while all welfare cases were different, people on ART, in particular, needed help and support from family and friends in order to adhere to their treatment. Without help, there was a high risk of them turning to substance abuse.


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