When workers from a local church in Uganda first met Goretti, the desperate mother was feeding tea to her newborn daughter, Mariam.
The church workers, who were visiting the impoverished neighborhood to invite families to register children in Compassion’s program, asked Goretti why she wasn’t giving the infant breastmilk or formula. Goretti told them she had been diagnosed with HIV and was too afraid to pass it along to her baby through breastfeeding. Since she lived in extreme poverty and couldn’t afford baby formula, tea seemed like the best option.
Goretti’s fear of passing along HIV through breastfeeding is common among mothers living with the virus, says Alan Patrick Ndaula, a medical doctor in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala. “The best option would be not to breastfeed, but [many mothers] can’t afford formula,” says Dr. Ndaula. That leads to babies suffering malnutrition, which is more life-threatening than treated HIV.
Seeing that Mariam was malnourished, the church workers immediately registered her and Goretti in the Compassion Survival initiative. Babies and their caregivers in the program receive health care, spiritual guidance, food, education and other crucial support thanks to Compassion donors. Program staff delivered groceries to Goretti, including formula and supplements to boost the baby’s health.