By Phill Prendeville

MosesMoses

Mostly we tell the stories of kids living in desperate situations, kids that despite their circumstances still have a real glimmer of hope in front of them, kids that have the potential, with a little help, to achieve great things in their lives… but not always, today we met Moses.

Moses stood out amidst all the other kids… he was simply skin and bones with deep set blood shot eyes… instantly I could tell he was unwell. I met Moses and his grandmother, he is one of those rare children I meet where there is really very little hope, at eight years old Moses’ body is totally malnourished, he is HIV positive and I am sure, just by looking at him that without massive intervention he is not far from death.

Some children’s stories are almost too sad to tell because of the effect they may have on the viewer, and I wonder whether people will see Moses’s suffering and view the situation as hopeless and do nothing or maybe just shake their heads and change the channel which is the last thing these kids need. It’s a risk I’m prepared to take and spend the morning filming with Moses, he is a great little boy and even though he is literally starving to death he allows us a glimpse into his world.

The images we capture of him reveal a stark and harrowing existence; he is cared for by his grandmother whom, it is obvious, carries the burden of bearing witness to her grandson’s premature demise, unable to do anything to save him.

Moses and his grandmother live in the shell of a delapidated structure of an unfinished shack. No floors or windows just brick walls and some tin on the roof. It is savagely hot and they are miles from anywhere in rural Kenya reckoning with its fourth year of drought… and the onset of famine.

I can’t help but ponder at times like this the often quoted words “There, but for the grace of God go I” and how the luck of the draw defines so innately who we are and what we will become. Having children myself I look at kids like Moses and feel a mixture of emotions, despair for him but so grateful for my own situation. I endeavour to be totally positive and upbeat around Moses, he has no need for sympathy, so I hide it from him and give him as much cheer as I can, and silently commit once again to trying to do what I can to helping those I can.

During filming I wanted to show Moses eating, I asked his grandmother if there was a little food we could put in a bowl. In the nine years I have been coming to Africa, this was the first household I’d ever visited that didn’t have one solitary scrap of food to eat. I asked Moses’s grandmother how they survived, she told me that they often had to ask for food from others. They call it “borrowing” if they asked their neighbours and “begging” if they asked strangers. Whatever they call it, it’s a harsh, demeaning life, one where Moses’ grandmother, with nothing to feed him, boils water pretending to cook until he falls asleep.

Recently though and cause for more concern, Moses has stopped asking for food, perhaps because he knows there is none or perhaps because he doesn’t want to cause any pain to his grandmother, whatever the reason he has no energy and is starving to death. He is a child robbed of childhood.

Both Moses’ parents died from HIV and AIDS, Moses’s legacy is the disease itself and the stigma that comes with it, stigma that has ostracisized Moses and his grandmother from the community and forced them into a life of relative isolation and suffering.

Moses is receiving antiretroviral drugs which should allow him to live a relatively normal healthy life. However, the drugs must be taken with food to be totally effective.

More than 11 million children in Africa have been orphaned by HIV and AIDS. And no one knows how many of these kids also have the disease.

In a world full of excess, waste, selfishness and extreme greed,  I wonder  how best to document Moses’ plight… how best to help him and kids like him… in a time when so many people are stopping sponsoring kids here, I still have to  believe that people  really do care and will act, if given the opportunity. I just hope it’s soon.

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