Did you know that small babies can die by the lack of human touch?
Hugging, holding, carrying, showing the babies affection is making them feel loved and secure but it is also helping them to develop as they should, both mentally and physically.
In the European country Romania the dictator Nicolae Ceausesecu ruled the country with an iron fist for 22 years, from 1967-1989.
After he and his as cruel wife were executed the country was opened for foreign visitors and they were able to see the poverty they had only heard a little about before.
There were a lot of orphanages in Romania because the women were demanded to give birth but they couldn’t afford to provide for their babies so these were sent to the governmental orphanages.
You might protest and ask how someone can demand anyone to give birth to as many children as possible, but exactly every stage in the citizens lives were controlled by the dictator.
Young women were taken with force to health clinics to be controlled if they had become fertile and at the other end of life no person got health care when they were older than 70 years, they were considered too old to be useful to the society so the only option they had was to wait for their death.
As Romania’s borders were opened some of the orphanages got visitors from other European countries and these visitors came in shock by what they saw.
Small children, from babies and up, were sitting or laying in their beds, apathetic.
The children were malnourished, too small for their ages, didn’t smile, couldn’t speak, the children spent their days in bed so they couldn’t walk or play as normal children.
Of course some of the children were born with som kind of handicap but most of them were born as normal and healthy babies, it was the stay at the orphanage that transformed the children to lethargic beings.
Too few employees for too many children to care for, bad conditions with not enough food and almost no supply combined with a low level of education of the staff made the life a living Hell for these children.
The only human touch they got was when someone changed their diapers or hit them.
A child that doesn’t feel loved, is never held or comforted, who doesn’t have the same possibilities in life as other children don’t develop in a normal way and can even die because of the apathy they feel.
For the children in the Romanian orphanages there was no joy, no love, no smiles, nothing but suffering, the children even stopped crying because there was no use – no one comforted them anyway.
It is impossible to believe that the children who survived this physical and mental abuse could grow up to normal functioning adults, they were too damaged and too many of them got mental illnesses.
Maybe you think that this is no problem in Africa where you see small children carried on their mother’s backs but not all mothers are affectionate and not all mothers are able to care for their children as they are supposed to.
The first time I visited Senegal my group was fortunate enough to visit the SOS Children’s village in Ziguinchor.
We met the manager of this place and he showed us around a little as he told us about the Children’s village.
Why I say that we were fortunate enough to come inside the big compound and even visit one of the houses, where around 10 children lived together with the employed ”mother”, was because too many had been there on a visit with the wrong purpose.
Some people use others unfortunate situation to make a lot of money that goes directly in to their own pockets.
The wrongful visitors had told that they wanted to learn about the organization of a SOS Children’s village to build up something similar and even to use the same name.
This had given the SOS Children’s village a bad reputation so now they were very keen on who they let in to see how everything worked.
The compound was very well organized and everything was clean and tidy, there were several small houses were the children lived with their ”mothers.”
The kids who we visited were happy and well behaved, these were in the ages of 3-4 years old.
To be employed as a ”mother” to these children seemed to be both hard work and a labour of love.
She took care of them as they were her own, taught them how to take care of themselves and how to keep their little room nice and tidy.
The employed ”mother” can have their own families outside the compound but she is not allowed to have any small children of her own because she must be able to care for the orphans full time.
Many of those who were employees at this village had grown up there themselves and they wanted to ”pay back” what they had got during their up bringing.
The children are allowed to live there until they are 18 years old but they can always come back for some help or advice and as I told you earlier – some of them came back to work there.
We were really impressed by the establishment and we told a lot about it as we came back to Sweden.
I know there is a similar SOS Children’s village in the Gambia but I haven’t visited it yet.
Sometimes we have a TV broadcast here in Sweden were they collect money for the SOS Children’s villages, this money will then be shared equally between the villages in the organization.
The manager in Ziguinchor told us that sometimes, when the gates are opened in the morning, there lies a baby outside the wall and the mother is no where around.
It must be the hardest decision to make to leave your baby somewhere to be found and to hope that someone will take care of it in a good way.
In Africa we have the extended families but even there it is sometimes a limit for how many children you are able to take care of.
Not everyone lives with their families or has a good relation with them and that is making life so much harder if a woman gets pregnant and can’t care for her child.
There is still a great stigma around getting pregnant and not being married and it always seems to be the woman’s fault.
She is the one who has to carry the shame, she is the one everyone blame but it is impossible for her to become pregnant on her own!
We should have come this far in 2017 that we understand better!
Even if the Holy Qour’an tells us that having sex is not allowed outside the marriage this happens all the time and it will continue happening because we are only humans.
Instead of shaming and blaming we should give help to people by offering contraceptions at our health clinics.
Some of you would say that there would be an uncontrolled promiscuosity if the health clinics would offer contraception but that doesn’t have to be the result.
Instead we can release a lot of the stress people feel, especially women.
Many women are burdened under poverty and the fear to have a new pregnancy and the stress over one more mouth to feed.
The Gambia is a poor country and it is hard for men to get a job so they can provide for their families but it is even harder for women.
Imagine the burden of getting pregnant without being married and not knowing what to do.
Some weeks ago we could all see a terrible photo of a drowned baby in a ditch somewhere in the Gambia.
We don’t know the background to this tragedy and can only speculate about the reason.
This is happening all over the world and it has happened in Sweden too but what we do know is that in most cases the reason is poverty and a sense of helplessness.
To first discovering being pregnant, then knowing that the society will condemn you and above all not knowing how to provide for the baby can make a young mother desperate enough to act in a way that is unacceptable but understandable.
We say that every child is a gift from God and in the best of worlds that is true but sometimes it can be hard to believe it, especially if the pregnant woman is getting condemned by the society.
We are only humans and we are created with emotions and hormones and sometimes they take over the common sense and the obedience of rules.
Those of us who shouts the loudest of ”the youth of today” and ”it was better when I was young” and so on must know that this is what our ancestors also said, millions of years ago.
Another thing is that those who are shouting the loudest are often those who have the most to hide because what appears to be a great sin in their eyes often triggers memories from their past.
Margaret Atwood, a famous Canadian author and poet has said:
”Touch comes before sight, before speech.
It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.”
Repeat these words to yourself and contemplate on them for a while.
Is she right?
Yes, of course she is right!
Look at the small babies when they are searching for their mother’s breast, they can’t speak and their eyes can’t focuse but their instincts are leading them to the comfort of their mother.
A person who is at the end of its life is also searching for a comforting touch.
To sit by this person, holding its hand, stroking it gently and speaking to the dying with a soft voice is giving the same comfort as when we began our lives and it is as important.
Through whole our life we need human touch, we need comfort and a sense of being loved.
Loneliness is fatal and can lead to a premature death, scientists in the Western world have found that many elderly people die because they feel so lonely which leads them in to a depression and a death wish.
A gentle human touch is filling our bodies with a hormone called oxytocine, that hormone is making us feel happy and releases pain so even when a person has a lot of pain this actually releases a little only by holding a hand.
It is amazing that so little can do so much, that things we might take for granted mean much more than we can believe.
Loneliness is a great and disturbing factor in the Western world and a lot of people live alone but that doesn’t immediately make them feel lonely, it depends on the context they live in.
If you have chosen to live alone you can still live a full and rich life if you have good friends, nice co-workers and hobbies that are keeping you occupied.
Living among a lot of people doesn’t automatically make you feel content because you are never having your own time or you might not have a lot in common with the people around you – then you still feel lonely.
Living in a marriage can sometimes make a person feeling much more alone because in a relation there is nothing worse than feeling alone when you have the company of your spouse.
In Africa it is not easy for a woman to live alone, she will be questioned by the society and people might wonder if no one wants her.
Believe it or not but it is not all women’s highest wish to get married, especially if they have bad experiences of a marriage from their own parents or someone they know well.
We should never question how people wish to live their lives, they always have a reason but it is their business, not ours.
Whether or not you live in a relation you still have the instinct of needing comfort and human touch.
This can sometimes lead to unwanted consequences but who are we to blame?
Are we all without sin?
Have we never felt a desire for something that is not considered accepted by the society?
We can blame each other but we can also show compassion and understanding.
Understanding mustn’t always mean accepting but what has happened belongs to the history and the only option we have is to deal with it.
I think we are rather good at blaming ourselves for our shortcomings so we don’t need others to put salt in the wounds.
A young woman who is seeking comfort in the arms of a man is not the only one to blame because she lives in a context as we others.
There is always a story behind the story, something is hiding behind the obvious.
This woman maybe lost her father when she was a child and by that she lost her most important male rolemodel.
Young women who are searching for a spouse are looking for a man with the same good characteristics as her father has and young men are looking for the similar from their mothers.
If this young woman has lost her father she has no one close who is showing her by example how a good man should behave and she has lost the one who can give her comfort and security as a man can.
She will always be searching for the love she lost in the other men she meets in life.
It is so easy to take the wrong path if you don’t have good rolemodels and if you don’t have someone you can speak to in confidence.
Life is not over by having a child and not being married.
See the problem as a challenge, as a lesson learned and show compassion.
As long as there has been human beings on earth there has also been hormones that has been stronger than the rules of the society.
We shouldn’t encourage this but we must understand it and help people to deal with their lives the best way possible.
Young men must understand that they have a responsability for their actions as well as the young women has.
If a young woman gets pregnant and has to stop studying for a while she must have the opportunity to go back after the baby is big enough to be left with someone she trusts and this woman can continue studying so she can get a job and support her child.
If we have good daycare centers with educated staff that are taking care of the children, both for the young women who wants to back their studies but also for young women who wants to work outside the home, we will be able to build up a society that is equal.
There are a lot of women who would be great with working at daycare centers, they could have an education for 1-2 years and then have a great and important profession.
Every child is as important!
Every child is our future!
If we treat every child with love and respect they will think well of us when they have grown up to be old enough to be the decision makers in the society.