By Kathy Mueller, Canadian Red Cross
 
She sits cross legged on the cot, amid the many other mothers in the crowded tent. She has a smile that can light up a room. She uses it to bravely mask her concern.
 
“This sickness is not the same as when they have been sick in the past,” says Shukri.Two of her three children have fallen sick to bacteria ravaging many villages across eastern Africa. Acute watery diarrhea/cholera has taken its toll on the bodies of six-month-old Abdi who lies in his mother’s lap, and on six-year-old Zakaria, who curls up lethargically at the foot of the cot, barely able to lift his head.
 
“This sickness is not the same as when they have been sick in the past,” says Shukri. “When I heard about the treatment centre opened up by the Red Cross, I had to find a way to get my children there.”
 
Shukri is 20 years old. Her husband is a daily labourer, but is currently out of work. “We are a poor family,” says Shukri, “like many others around here.”
 
They managed to scrape together enough money to hire a car to bring the children to the treatment centre. Opened by the Canadian Red Cross in late May, with support from the Government of Canada, the facility has treated more than 4,000 people with water-related diseases to date.
 
“I have heard that some people are dying from this disease. I am worried that my own children may die,” says Shukri, as she watches her mother trying to get her eldest son to drink the rehydration solution, which will give him much needed fluids and electrolytes essential for survival, a lot of which he has lost due to the diarrhea.

A few hours later, the rehydration solution has done its job. Zakaria is no longer lethargic and is well enough to be discharged. Giving hope to this young mother that little Abdi will soon follow.