Laughter Hugs Smiles: Welcome to Work

Laughter hugs smiles and a lot of shouting and roaring greeted me when I arrived at work this morning, accompanied by my son. I was hardly able to walk with so many kids attached to my legs. My son wasn’t even allowed to take his shoes off before being hauled off to play.

Three New Children in the Last Week!

New girl twin at Watoto Kicheko

Laughter, hugs and smiles at Watoto Kicheko

First, I had to see the new arrivals, four month old girl twins, Lena and Linda. No one here knows which one is which, although one is noticeably darker than the other (I was later told that the first one below is Linda and the second is Lena, but that may need to be verified!). They are both smilers, needing only a little encouragement. They can add to the mix of laughter hugs smiles and fun!

Baby Neema, who was sick at the end of last week, has made a quick recovery and is smiling already this morning. All the other kids are well and happy, which is all you can ask for. Colin, who arrived on Thursday, is doing very well, having taken no time whatsoever to settle in.

Even Rose, who has spent a lot of time in hospital, should be coming home in the next few days. Her friend Careen, who also spent time in hospital, is much better, and is getting mounds of attention from the many people around her.

Girl twin 2

Laughter, hugs and smiles from the second twin

Adding to the laughter hugs smiles and general mayhem, the carers are working hard to keep everyone healthy, happy and entertained. It’s quite a job. I can come and go, spending some of my time in the office (or under the mango tree, where I can sometimes get an internet connection), but even that can be exhausting.

Sending you Laughter Hugs Smiles and Kisses

There will be updates on Facebook and Twitter, as well as here on the blog, and photos will be posted when the connection permits. Meanwhile, the children and adults at Watoto Kicheko wish you all a great week, with plenty of laughter, hugs, smiles, kisses and other good things!

Happy Friday from everyone at Njiro

It’s Friday, happy Friday, but it feels somehow like a Monday. Almost all the children are at home right now, with only one, Rose, still in the hospital. There is a rumor that she will be back today, which will make the weekend even better. She has missed a few happy Fridays already!

Welcome to our latest arrival, Colin

Happy Friday from Colin

Happy Friday from Colin

A new baby, Colin, arrived on Thursday. He was different from many of our babies, chubby, smiley and giggly. He was made welcome with a feed, a sleep and long cuddles, a routine that will continue for some time.

It will be another busy day here at Watoto Kicheko. Perhaps that’s why it feels like a Monday. The toddlers have to do their usual morning things, washing, dressing, eating, etc. But then starts the serious playtime, with plenty of mischievousness thrown in.

The crawlers and tiny babies have to do their crawling, cooing, giggling and maybe the odd bit of crying for no reason at all, aside from the sheer pleasure of making noise. But mainly, it will be a happy Friday.

Weekend? Oh yes, the weekend!

Happy Friday from Veronica, Silvamus and Davis

Happy Friday from Veronica, Silvamus and Davis

There are workmen ‘fixing’ the electricals, which mysteriously never seem to be fully fixed. There is a volunteer coming in to create some colorful artwork, which the kids would love to redecorate for her, I’m sure. And I’m trying to catch up with some work before the kids discover where I am (under a mango tree) and drag me off to play.

The carers (Mamas or Dadas) are busy with their caring, playing, cleaning, cooking and generally getting through the day. But there is lots of happy chatter, plenty of smiles and a lot of laughter throughout the day, not just among the children, but also amongst the staff.

Happy Friday!

Wishing you all a happy Friday from the kids at Watoto Kicheko!

Rose and Leila

Hospital Appeal for Rose and Careen!

Please don’t forget about our hospital appeal for Rose and Careen! You can contribute at our YouCaring page.

Sadly, Rose is back in hospital. She has been there for nearly a week, first in intensive care, then in an ordinary ward. She has been receiving oxygen as her levels are low. But it is still not clear what is causing her poor health.

Hospital appeal for Baby Rose

Hospital appeal for Baby Rose

Careen has been at home for several weeks and she is gradually gaining weight and strength, but she needs constant attention.

Tanzanian hospital procedures

Even private hospitals in Tanzania can be stressful places for children. My own son, who is only eight weeks old, was at the same hospital recently, also to receive oxygen. While some of the doctors are very professional and kind, procedures are far from smooth.

You must pay a large sum of money before your child is admitted, no matter how urgent their care is. You must also pay the entire bill before the child will be released, or they will be kept at the hospital, with costs mounting up. Hence the need for our renewed hospital appeal.

Rose’s current bills will be paid when she is released, hopefully on Friday. But our hospital appeal is to raise several thousand dollars for the combined bills for Rose and Careen, accrued since the start of this year.

Our current hospital appeal

Hospital appeal for Careen

Hospital appeal for Careen

Our current campaign has only raised just over a quarter of the amount outstanding and we are still looking for people to contribute. Even a small sum would be appreciated.

Watoto Kicheko’s children tend to be the most needy and vulnerable in the Arusha region, with long term medical and other needs. Therefore, we must appeal to the generosity of our followers.

If you are unable to contribute to our hospital appeal, or if you have already done so, please pass on our details to others, via email, Twitter, Facebook or any other means.

Thank you to those who have already contributed and promoted Watoto Kicheko in any way; our entire community is grateful to you!

Monday Laughter – All Play, No Work

Monday Laughter - Glory photobombing Elinipa

Monday Laughter – Glory photobombing Elinipa

Monday laughter, because it doesn’t make that much difference what day it is when you don’t have to go to school or work. You can afford to take as long as you want, there are no appointments; just a loose schedule of meals, playtime, sleeping, etc.

Monday laughter because it’s hard to tell it’s a Monday morning at Watoto Kicheko. The kids are all sitting around their little table, eating their breakfast at just after 8am. It’s a bit dark outside because it’s the rainy season.

Everyone is a bit muted because it’s morning. But it doesn’t take much to elicit smiles, and then laughs from the kids. Later, the noise level will rise until it’s time to have a snack, and then a nap.

Monday Laughter – Some sleep, some food and some play

Monday Laughter from Ima

Monday Laughter from Ima

The Monday laughter can continue when the kids get up again and rediscover the toys they tired of an hour or two earlier. If the weather improves, they can go and play in the garden, jump on the trampoline, shout at the dog, or find things to play with that they really shouldn’t play with.

Rose is still in hospital on oxigen (you can contribute to her treatment if you haven’t already!). But all the other kids are at home, most are well, some have slight illnesses, or slight moods. Even Rose should be back home at Watoto Kicheko soon, as well.

It’s so peaceful that I feel like napping here in the office, even though I got up less than two hours ago. But I’d better not; soon enough the kids will discover my hiding place, and come in to ‘assist’ me with my work. By then I hope to have lots done.

Monday Laughter – Because it’s fun!

Monday Laughter from Ima, Vero, Salva and Davey

Monday Laughter from Ima, Vero, Salva and Davey

There’s a volunteer here creating some artwork for the orphanage. In fact, she took the photos for this post!

Sending you Monday laughter from all of us at Watoto Kicheko, and hoping you have a good week.

Medical Fund for Babies Careen and Rose

This medical fund has been set up because we urgently need to raise money to cover our recent extortionate medical bills. The fund is for two of our beautiful girls, Careen and Rose, and will cost us around $7,732.500 (15,000,000tzs/£5,103.99) in medical expenses (we won’t know the exact amount until both girls are discharged). This is a lot of money, but without having these girls in the hospital I am very sure they would both be dead, and you can’t put a price on a life.

The Medical Fund is for the Treatment the Girls have Already Received

Medical Fund for Baby Careen

Baby Careen

Please help us to raise some money towards this medical fund. It doesn’t matter how much because any amount helps. Please also share our appeal so it can reach far and wide to raise money and awareness for us.

You can follow Careen’s story on the YouCaring page for this medical fund.


The Medical Fund is also for Baby Rose

The other little girl is Rose, she has spent most her her short 5 months in the hospital, she seems to now be on the road to recovery which is fantastic.

Medical Fund for Baby Careen

Baby Careen

Thank-you for your kind donation and for sharing our appeal.

Watoto Kicheko orphanage is supported by The Laughter of a Child Foundation. But from time to time, a medical fund like this needs to be set up for children with substantial health needs. This is especially important when they have to spend a long time in hospital.

Medical Fund for Baby Rose

Baby Rose

Medical Fund so Girls can be Released From Hospital

It is common practice in hospitals in Tanzania to keep the patient until bills have been paid. This means that the bills continue to rise. In this instance, a large proportion of the bill was paid, but Watoto Kicheko must maintain its reputation with the medical facilities on which they depend so heavily.

If you would like to keep in touch with Watoto Kicheko, including medical funds, please do so! You can always follow us on our Facebook page, using the icon on the right hand side of this page. You can also sign up for our newsletter, follow us on Twitter, or on Pinterest, using the relevant links.

Medical Costs: Protectionism Harms Children

One of the big expenses that parents (and orphanages!) face in developing countries like Tanzania is the cost of medicines and treatment. Even healthy children need vaccinations and have lots of other health needs that can only be met using pharmaceutical products. Medical costs run high.

You might think that developing countries would pay less for lifesaving medicines and vaccinations, but you would be wrong. Medical costs are often disproportionately high in poorer countries. Pharmaceutical companies negotiate prices in secret, and countries often have to sign a confidentiality agreement in the process.

Medical costs disproportionately high in developing countries

Apparently “Tunisia pays more than France; South Africa pays almost three times more than Brazil.” But it’s hard to compare what countries like Tanzania pay for medical costs because of the secrecy surrounding this industry, all cloaked by vague claims about ‘commercial sensitivity’.

Medical costs - one of our sick girlsThere’s a vaccine for pneumonia, but it is too expensive for most people in developing countries, and even for NGOs operating in the majority world. Pfizer and GSK, who spend massive amounts on publicity, have failed to negotiate openly and fairly.

Medical costs addressed by MSF campaign

Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) are currently running a campaign called #AskPharma to draw attention to these inequitable practices. An estimated one million young children die of pneumonia every year and Medicins Sans Frontieres want to start by getting the price down to $5 per child for the three shots they need.

This is still a large amount of money and could easily buy the food for ten meals in Tanzania. Conditions such as TB and HIV infect and kill far fewer children acute respiratory infections in this country, yet the medical costs for these are often covered, or partially covered, by international intitives (albeit still at an excessive price).

Top deadly diseases of children and infants

The top killer of children in developing countries is acute respiratory infections. Other big killers are malaria and diarrheal conditions, both of which are preventable. It should be cheap to prevent them, but diarrhea kills another 1.5 million children, globally.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reminds us that “About 44% of deaths in children younger than 5 years in 2012 occurred within 28 days of birth – the neonatal period. The most important cause of death was prematurity, which was responsible for 35% of all deaths during this period.”

Many Watoto Kicheko children were born prematurely, and are far more susceptible to pneumonia and other Medical costs - drippreventable disease as a result. This issue is very close to our hearts.

Pneumonia is a horrible sickness, I have had it myself. But I was lucky to be in the UK, where medical costs and treatment are covered by national insurance. Few people die of pneumonia in the UK, or other wealthy countries.

Watoto Kicheko children face high risk from pneumonia

But it is especially common among children who are weakened by malnutrition, other childhood illnesses, lack of breastfeeding, etc. Therefore, it is something that we at Watoto Kicheko are always watching out for.

Please help raise awareness by supporting the Medicins Sans Frontieres campaign. Doing so will also help the children at Watoto Kicheko, by helping to reduce medical costs.

Tanzanian Orphans: Men Can Help Reduce Number?

Tanzanian orphans - Man with InfantOne of the most effective ways of keeping newborns, infants and under fives alive is by making sure that their mother does not die. This will also reduce the number of Tanzanian orphans. That means supporting women who are planning to have children, who are pregnant, or who already have young children.

I would suggest that one of the best potential sources of support for mothers-to-be and mothers, is fathers. A lot of NGOs make a big deal of working exclusively with children, infants or mothers. But ignoring fathers, or even worse, branding them as in some way wayward, is not helpful. Men could do a lot to reduce the number of Tanzanian orphans too.

Including fathers more in pregnancy and birth has not yet developed very much here in Tanzania. Some women will tell you they don’t want their husband there, and some men will tell you that they don’t want to be there, during the delivery. How many men would feel differently if they knew they could support their wives and cut maternal illness and death?

But one of the biggest sources of opposition to fathers being present when their wives are giving birth in Tanzania, and even when they go for antenatal care, may be health facilities themselves. Health personnel in East Africa currently have a disproportionate influence on the treatment patients receive, with the wishes of the patients often being sidelined.

I have been present for the birth of my two sons here in Tanzania, the first time in Dar es Salaam and the second in Moshi. I have yet to meet a nurse who thinks it is a good idea for fathers to be present when their wife is giving birth. It is possible to persuade doctors, but many people can’t afford a consultation with a doctor, and rely on the professionalism of nurses and other staff.

Perhaps Tanzanian fathers don’t realize that their mere presence could strongly influence the sort of treatment their wife receives? Nurses would feel under more pressure to treat pregnant women with respect, which they do not always do when there is no one to stand up for them. Or fathers could be there just to ensure that their wives get the minimum level of attention they need, when they need it.

Anything that reduces maternal morbidity and mortality also reduces infant morbidity and mortality, and also impacts the number of Tanzanian orphans. It would be a wasted opportunity indeed to leave men out of the picture, and fail to encourage them to be birthing partners to their own wives, present when their children are born.

Tanzanians are well aware that health facilities are in bad condition, and that will not change in a hurry. They are also aware that health personnel are often far too stretched to prioritize simple courtesy. Indeed, many patients and those accompanying patients will admit that they fear being shouted at by nurses and health personnel in front of other patients, and are often too intimidated to say anything at all.

If fathers attend at least one antenatal care visit and express their wish to be present when their wife is giving birth, they can start to exert a lot more influence over the care their wives receive. Better care is safer care, and safety is paramount; safety is one of the main reasons for giving birth in a health facility, with a health professional present, it is one of the main reasons why maternal, newborn, infant and under five deaths have declined in the past few decades.

But they haven’t declined nearly enough yet. Recent figures show that 26 newborns die out of every 1000 live births; 51 infants die out of every 1000 live births; and 81 under fives die out of every 1000 live births. Infants and under fives, who should be facing fewer serious health risks as they get older, are more likely to die, as if they cease to matter so much once they are no longer newborns.

Maternal mortality stands at 454/100,000 live births, and that rises to much higher levels in certain hospitals. This includes the Muhimbili Maternity Hospital, the biggest and most prominent in the country, where mortality is about three times higher than average. So many Tanzanian orphans are born in health facilities, because women are not receiving the support and care they need.

It’s hardly surprising that only about half of all births in Tanzania take place in health facilities!

Just being with your wife when she is giving birth can improve the care she receives. Just being in the delivery room with her can remind those attending to her that there is a reason for the father to be there; he is concerned about his wife’s safety as she gives birth.

If women survive birth and leave the hospital as healthy as they were when they arrived, they will be able to giTanzanian orphans - Man with orphanve their newborn and their other children the attention they need. Newborns, infants and under fives will be healthier, and more likely to survive, go to school, grow up and have healthy children themselves.

Antagonistic attitudes towards men are detrimental to the lives of all those we profess to care about. The attitudes of NGOs and of health professionals, as well as the attitudes of men and women, need to change. But this will all contribute to the reduction in the number of Tanzanian orphans.

Welcome to Watoto Kicheko’s new Website and Blog!

It’s always a busy week at Watoto Kicheko, with babies coming, babies leaving, sick babies, well babies and even sick staff members sometimes. No one who has worked for a baby home has ever said it’s easy, though!

Firstly, welcome to the latest manifestation of Watoto Kicheko’s website and blog 😉

Claire, our on-site director has spent more than three weeks in hospital with some of our babies who have been very ill. Hopefully now she will have a well-deserved weekend off. Then she can spend time with her children and generally get back into a routine at the Watoto Kicheko Center.

There are several projects on the go at the moment and I shall mention them in posts in the very near future. For now, let me remind our blog and website followers that we also have an active Facebook and Twitter account. There you will find updates, pics and responses from friends of Watoto Kicheko.

Please use the icons on the right column of this page to sign up to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, retweet our tweets, like our posts and spread the word about us far and wide! You can send messages to us, find out about our babies and even send them greetings.

Thank you for visiting, please return regularly 🙂