She comes to us on a windy evening. She is 12 years old and carries her 2.5-month-old sister. The two sisters were born under the Capricorn zodiac sign.
Their mother died when the youngest was born. The human desire for children is strong. It was the fifth time that their mother had carried a child. After her elder daughter’s birth, she gave birth to three more children, all of whom have since died. Her fifth birth became her own death.
What remained were these two sisters, one too young to take on the role of mother and the other accused of her own mother's death. The father mourns at home, where he takes care of their small farm.
There are so many destinies here. There is so much suffering and hardship. One can’t but be humble about what is happening. There is so much that you can’t control.
A 12-year-old girl will now become a mother. But she has no milk to give, and no one wants to give the milk from her breasts to a child who has taken her mother's life. There is no formula milk in the village where the sisters live. And even if there was, there is no clean water to mix it with (in the absence of clean drinking water, people use the rainwater from puddles).
So the newborn girl becomes malnourished. When she came to us she did not even weigh 2.5 kg.
The elder girl knows that the situation is hopeless. But she has chosen to take care of her baby sister and give her a chance of life. The girl is totally dependent on us. She looks at me with calm eyes. She does not understand what is said on the medical round where the language used is French. Not a word leaves her lips.
But in her eyes there is a little spark of hope, and when the nurses bring toys for the baby, her eyes smile at us. It's moments like this that I work for.
It has become colder here in the past few days. It is the dry and cool season. Here it is semi-desert, with hot days and cold nights. We are just south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Now, when the sun is at its zenith in Cancer, it is cold for those who do not have a blanket (which is usually full of fleas) to pull over them in the night.
I read that one of the characteristics of people born under Capricorn is the ability to live in inhospitable environments. I hope and believe that this is the case for these Capricorn sisters.
Top image shows a girl photographed in Bekily mobile clinic, Madagascar, 2013