When Nyanene went to sleep

A baby dies of pneumonia in a hospital in South Sudan that ran out of power

A relative holds the dead body of Nyanene, a five-month-baby who suffered from respiratory distress at the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital in Maiwut, South Sudan. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran – ICRC

It was too much for Nyanene. A five-month-old girl from Maiwut, South Sudan, was admitted to the local hospital a few days earlier with a diagnosis of pneumonia. She was a fighter, spending long hours struggling to breath, while looking at her mother (very young, by the way) who had brought her to life. Now, it seemed that this same life was going away from her mouth.
With an oxygen mask that was too big for her, Nyanene was not rumpled. In fact, she had no strength. She had a whole medical team for herself, who put her injections, made cardiac massages, changed the serum and even treated her with tenderness when needed. But at three in the afternoon, in that dreaded hospital of the Red Cross, the generator broke down and everything was left in the dark. The device that helped Nyanene to breathe also stopped working. The baby, exhausted with so much effort, decided to go to sleep under her mother’s desperate cry. She did not wake up anymore. It did not matter the generator was fixed a bit later. The girl no longer needed it.
In May 2016, I witnessed the toughest death. A child who surrendered after a rampant fight. A girl who was not guilty of being born in an almost abandoned village of South Sudan. Nyanene got sick at the wrong place of an unfair geography. Any baby in her same situation in a hospital in Barcelona, ​​Paris, New York or Tokyo would have probably survived. In South Sudan, no.
Probably, Nyanene, if she had overcome the failure of the generator, would have died anyway for any other reason a few days later. She was too weak and had too many needs that her environment no longer could satisfy. Her serious malnutrition that suffered been exposed her to any kind of illness. In fact, the deaths of those malnourished do not come by direct starvation, but rather by other consequences, such as dehydration, infections, respiratory insufficiencies … A badly-fueled body has very few defenses to face the dangers that surround her.
I accompanied Nyanene in her last 24 hours of life. At first I did not expect to witness at such a catastrophic end, but as time passed, the fatality was taking a clearer shape. And this did not made sadness lighter. The mother was the first to collapse. She showed that an unfair death in Africa, although it happens very often, is no more passable than another in Europe.
After the weeping, silence came. I accompanied the Nyanene’s mother and grandmother to their village. They carried the baby in arms, wrapped in a short blanket. I could see her feet and, for a moment, I thought she was just sleeping. I dreamed she would move her feet be and I would like to tickle her. But no. Her feet did not move. Silence was still present while the two women, mother and grandmother, walk that tiny corpse under the rain, dragging their mourning and cursing the misfortune of living in that lost corner of the world.

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