Fatuma has never been able to have children of her own, but is currently raising her step-grandchildren, Yasmina (10), Remedin (6) and Omer (4) in the absence of their parents. She is married to Mohammad, and it is her second marriage. Like any marriage, theirs has its ups and downs – it is hard to keep a relationship going when you are living on the poverty-line.
After growing up and spending some of her adulthood in northern Ethiopia, Fatuma moved to Gende Tesfa. She contracted leprosy when she was a child and had heard that she could be treated in the medical centre there. Fatuma wanted to be with people who understood the disease. Where she had lived before, she had been ostracised by the community because of the stigma of the disease.
“Mohammad and I were united in our leprosy – it was love at first sight,” she explained.
Money is tight as Mohammad is in his 70s and doesn’t work. Fatuma works a daily labourer and sometimes sells food on the side of the road, but she gets tired easily . Neighbours’ children often drop by too just in case there is any spare food – or just to hang out.
The family doesn’t have a toilet, and so Fatima and her children have to go in the field. She worries about the safety of her children when they do this. Sanitation is a problem in Gende Tesfa.
“Sometimes I feel as though we are surviving not living,” she says. “We live day to day. It is impossible to plan when you don’t even know if you are going to be able to feed and clothe your children.”