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Safe haven for little Grace: Being raised by strangers after abandonment by sex worker Mum

Written by  Solister Mogha
GRACE UNDER SAFE HANDS: Nkhoma and wife and the abandoned child at their home - Pic by Solister Mogha GRACE UNDER SAFE HANDS: Nkhoma and wife and the abandoned child at their home - Pic by Solister Mogha

 

Mangochi, June 24, 2018: Clad in a pink flowered dress, little Grace Nachisale coils into sleep in the comfort of a pair of hands that is now becoming familiar to her tender body.

The girl has found warmth in these hands, she is comfortable, she is safe and she is home. This is for the fact the couple raising her are not her biological parents.

What started as mere job for the family of Patuma Amasi and Mike Nkhoma to take care of Grace is slowly building into a strong bond.

The girl’s biological mother, Marciano Katongo, left her in the custody of the family.

“She approached us saying she is looking for a maid to take care of the baby. She promised a monthly pay of K10, 000 and that she will be bring food and all the necessities for the bay every day,” said Amasi.

“We took the offer because we were desperate for the money and also pitied the girl’s poor health status.”


On June 7, 2017, Amasi and her husband of Sub Traditional Authority (STA) Lulanga in Mangochi started taking care of the baby.

The biological mother, Katongo, is a commercial sex worker and the presence of the girl was seen as a distraction to her trade.

For close to two months, Katongo managed to visit her baby and provided all the necessities almost every day.

But things took a turn in August last year.

She started skipping some days without visiting her child. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months.

“Since October last year, she has not turned up. We just hear that she is in Salima,” says a concerned Amasi.

Little Grace was only 10 months old when her biological mother left. Now she is a year and two months old. The bond with her current guardians is slowly growing strong.

Ever since Grace’s Mother abandoned her, the Nkhoma and his family has been buying milk and other food stuffs just to make sure the baby enjoys a healthy life.

Luckily, for the eight months that the family has been with the girl, she has only fallen sick once. But worries are still there as to what they would do if the situation gets worse one day.

The family is not sure of what to do next.

Efforts to trace and contact Grace’s mother have disappointingly been unsuccessful even with the help of the chief in the area.


“We are still trying to track her but nothing has come up so far,” says STA Lulanga.


The chief is thankful to the Nkhoma family for their care of the child.
 “They are working so hard to raise the child.

She is now healthier than the time her mother brought her to this family,” says the chief.

“They never planned for this but they are doing well.”
Efforts to look for the Katongo are still on.

Several contacts have been made with the bar Katongo was to patronize in the area.

Zondani Mhango, owner of the bar, says he knows the whereabouts of Katongo and that at times the two do communicate.

“I know what is happening with her child.

Whenever I try to bring out the issue about her child, she cuts off the phone,” Mhango says adding that Katongo is now doing her business in somewhere in Salima.


Malawi News Agency managed to get the mother’s phone contacts but efforts to talk to her keeping on hitting a blank wall. Both her numbers are always out of reach,
Mangochi District Social Welfare Office expressed ignorance about the matter and say they could not comment before the matter is reported.

Malawi government in 2010 passed the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act. The reason for passing this law was to ensure that children receive proper care and attention from for their growth.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Lucy Bandazi says it is sad that some people are still subjecting their children to different types of torture.

“The little girl’s situation is unfortunate and a gross violation of her child’s right to receive proper care from a parent. By abandoning the girl, the mother is committing a crime and risk an arrest,” Bandazi says.

She adds that the ministry will try to work on placing the girl in an appropriate or suitable alternative care.

On whether adoption could be best way for the Nkhoma family, Bandazi says the Ministry will have to establish first if the family has the will and capacity to take care of the child.

“If they can meet the requirements for foster care, then the process can be formalized,” she reveals.

If the biological mother decides never to come back for her daughter, Mike Nkhoma and his family is ready to adopt the girl.

The family feels she is already part of them.

“She is a nice child. Honestly, I have started to consider her one of my own,” says Nkhoma, a father of seven.

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