Malika Hama has grown up at CURE.
Malika first came to the CURE hospital when she was only a few months old. She was born in Niamey, with a cleft lip, so her mother Saley brought her to the hospital for a consultation. She was very malnourished and very skinny, but always smiling. Our policy is that babies have to weigh at least 10 kilos before we operate on them, otherwise going under general anesthesia can be dangerous. We decided to keep both Saley and Malika at the hospital so we could try to fatten Malika up.
She was given a protein-rich diet — lots of eggs — and she quickly started gaining weight. She also started becoming known around the hospital. She is such a cute baby that it would be hard not to notice her in any case, but she also has a habit of reaching out to whoever comes near her, wanting to be held. Saley got very used to handing her off to whoever happened to walk by, since nobody could resist such an offer.
Saley was disappointed that Malika couldn’t be operated on right away, but she was glad for the opportunity to stay at the hospital and see Malika eating so well. She knew that Malika was undernourished, and she knew that it was dangerous. Before Malika came along, she had another baby girl who was also born with cleft lip. She died shortly before Malika was born. So when Saley saw Malika for the first time, she cried and cried. She cried because she was happy to have another little girl, but she also cried because she was sad to see Malika’s cleft lip. She even cried for herself. She knew the neighbors would talk. They already talked. It was bad enough to give birth to one baby with cleft lip. Soon after Malika was born, people were saying that Saley was cursed and that her house was filled with evil spirits.
A few months (and kilos) later, Malika was looking good. She was actually chubby for the first time in her life, which (naturally) only added to her cuteness. Everyone knew her, and she had quite a few firsts at the hospital. She learned to talk at the hospital (or at least emit word-like sounds that are on the verge of talking), she learned to walk at the hospital (baby steps, literally), and finally she was ready for her operation.
She came through her surgery without any problems, and her (tiny) scar is healing nicely. She looks like a totally different person, and she is even cuter. Saley is happy, too. She is very shy and doesn’t say much, especially compared to Malika, who eats up attention like it was made of sugar. But you can see the relief in Saley’s eyes and hear it in her nervous laughter. She is happy. She said that she wasn’t sure this day was ever going to come, since she was at the hospital for so long, but now she can’t wait to go home and show everyone Malika’s new look.