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Cuamba (Mozambique): The friendship of the youngsters of the Community goes beyond the wall of prejudice that isolates the elderly in Africa.

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Cuamba (Mozambique): The friendship of the youngsters of the Community of Sant'Egidio goes beyond the wall of isolation and prejudice of which the elderly in Africa are often victims.

23 February 2009

Few days ago the work of reconstruction of the roof of the house of Acácio have ended, an elderly man that lives alone, abandoned by his relatives, at the margin of the town of Cuamba, a small center in the North of Mozambique, almost at the boundary with Malawi. With the Community, Acácio has recovered the roof, that had gone destroyed because of the recent rains, but also found a new family.  The situation of Acácio, unfortunately, is not an exception.

The situation of the elderly
In Mozambique, like in many other African countries, in the last years the number of the elderly is increased, although the hope of life has gone below 40 years due to AIDS.

In fact, thanks to better life conditions, many can reach ages once unhoped. Therefore while the number of elderly increases, at the same time, however, AIDS takes a heavy number of victims, above all young and adults.

This, in terms of census, provokes a drop of the middle age classes, and, in the collective imaginary, spreads the idea that is the exercise of sorcery allow some to be ageing while many very young die too early.

This way, it happens that the elderly be victims of the superstition or of the local traditions, sometimes inhuman: in particular in the smallest centers, they are accused of stealing the life from the youngest. Often, therefore they are abandoned even from their same relatives, sent out or even hunted down. For a lonely elderly person, without pension, without the support of the sons or of the neighbors, living becomes really difficult.


Cuamba, the Community and the elderly
At the margin of the town of Cuamba (in the slums) several elderly live, many of whom have arrived between the 70s and the 80s, during the war. They tell that life in the villages around was not safe because of the frequent attacks, while Cuamba, that hosted a large barracks and was protected also by the malawian soldiers (that wanted to ensure the passage of the train coming from the coast) gave greater safety.

They are poor people, that in these years could not improve their situation, so that many could not even learn Portuguese language. Some of them (above all women) live with one or two grandchild, also victims of abandonment. Their loneliness and poverty thus join and find mutual help.

In this town the Community exists already since 1994. It is mostly composed of young students, from the high school and the university. In 2003 the meeting with two poor elderly women, abandoned and lacking any support. Today the Community cares for some tens of elderly, for whom the visits of the youngest friends is a real salvation.  Some of them have not not even a house, clothes, and remain whole days without anything to eat. The friends of the Community, in these years, rebuilt the house for a lot of them, often bringing also clothing and food.


More stories

"When we got to know Joana, she was sleeping outdoors in the yard of the daughter's home. Her hut, made of mud and straw, collapsed because of the intense rain. For this reason the daughter hosted her, but just in the yard, because, according to the Macua tradition (her ethnic group), the mother-in-law cannot sleep in the same house of the son-in-law.

With the permission of the daughter, we have cooked bricks and built a house for her in the yard, just in time to protect her from the new rains.  Now Joana can accommodate also the grandchild".

"Mariana is one of the first friends that we have known. Not only she was deserted by her relatives who considered her a witch, she was even sent out by the neighbors who were fearing her. she has been wandering around for a while and eventually found shelter in a hut at the very margin of the town, in the zone of the "big stones", as it is called in Cuamba.

There was around her a kind "isolation wall". We have started to regularly pay visit to her and this helped her to live. Mariana, is indeed a very nice elderly, happy of to receive the visits of these someway special youngsters. Like almost all the elderly, she does not know how old she is, but she knows that she was born in that year when the rains seemed to be never ending. A "grandchild" lives with her, a 7-year-old child neglected from the parents, that everyone calls Sozinho (lonely). His actual name is Junior and, since we knew him, he took again his true name and went back to school".

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