AN unemployed mother of three from Ongha village in the Ohangwena region says she does not have the patience to wait until next year for her starving baby to receive a crucial operation to her oesophagus.
Lahia Shikongo (34) says her four-month-old daughter, Sonde Hainghono, suffers from oesophageal atresia, a birth defect involving that part of her oesophagus, the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach, which is underdeveloped.
Shikongo says Sonde has a hole in her neck from which saliva and vomit leak.
“I was informed that the hole in her neck may later become cancerous, because it is exposed to dirt and bacteria,” she says.
She says she took Sonde to the Oshakati Intermediate Hospital for a follow-up on 17 August, where a doctor told her the baby can only be operated on next year.
“I barely sleep. I am so worried, and seeing my baby in this pain won’t give me the patience to wait until next year,” she says.
Shikongo says Sonde was born at the Onandjokwe State Hospital at Ondangwa in April, and was referred to the Oshakati Intermediate Hospital barely a week after to insert a tube into her stomach for feeding purposes.
“I didn’t experience any problems during my pregnancy. The baby was diagnosed with oesophageal atresia three hours after being born when she refused to be breastfed.
“I put my breast milk in a tube to feed her. She has to drink a minimum of 7ml every three hours,” she says.
Shikongo says she does not know how much the operation would cost or where to go for surgery, and is therefore calling on the private sector and individuals for help.
“I do not only need monetary help, but any doctor who can see my baby’s condition, please reach out to help us.
“I feel like the baby is starving since she can’t be fed enough,” she says.
Maria Ruben, Shikongo’s neighbour, says she has known Shikongo for five years.
“I see her struggle with regards to caring for her baby, with clothing, and with the pieces of material she uses to cover up the hole in Sonde’s neck, and the way she replaces this every time after washing them.”
Ruben says Shikongo used to sell some items to make ends meet, but cannot do so any more, since she has to look after Sonde and her other two children.
“She needs a lot of assistance. I am appealing to people to assist where they can,” she says.
Windhoek-based Dr Ferlin de Almeida this week confirmed that oesophageal atresia is a birth defect.
“Basically, the baby’s oesophagus isn’t fully developed. This happens when the baby is still developing, so it leads to the oesophagus not developing fully, leading to food not entering the stomach,” she said.
De Almeida said the only solution is a surgical procedure to restore the oesophagus.