When One Child Dies, It Matters

Felice was placed in the orphanage in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on July 5, 2012 at two months of age. Felice's mother, Margarite, was getting married and as part of the commitment to marriage, she was unable to keep her child. What justice is this for a mother to be forced to abandon her baby to marry?

As Felice grew up in the orphanage, she was depressed and gradually her belly became swollen in appearance. Her liver and spleen were getting bigger and bigger, likely from malaria, and her skinny little wasted legs hardly held her up. Nonetheless she was a bright little toddler who was curious, communicative, and cuddly.

Felice was referred to a willing couple in Chicago who had already adopted a son from Ethiopia. Ethiopia had crawled to a stop for adoptions so the parents decided to look to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for their second adoption. They visited Felice a few weeks ago in preparation for the final adoption decree. She was evaluated by a local doctor who treated her for malaria and thought that she would be fine. Her parents went back to the States happy with her progress.

On or about August 13, 2014, Felice developed a very high fever and died of complications of cerebral malaria resistant to medication. She was the daughter of two very hopeful and attached parents and the sister of a 4-year-old brother who never met her. They are grieving and in a state of shock.

Ten million children under the age of five die every year. When I started medical school that number was double, and though we have come a long way, this is not good enough. All of these children die of preventable infectious diseases -- i.e. diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria. Poor access to primary health care with lack of immunizations and unavailable oral/intravenous re-hydration for diarrheal disease is just not acceptable in 2014.

I spoke to the mother Suzanne the other night and sympathetically listened to the details of the story. I emphasized that she was like any parent having lost her child. Felice was, in fact, her daughter and the loss was deep and impossibly inexplicable and painful. I supported that they get a new referral to adopt a child. Even with the rawness of her loss, Suzanne yearned to adopt an orphan child and grow her family.

There are millions of kids in the world who need families and the state of health care for all of these extremely poor children is simply abysmal. I am mourning the loss of this one life and I ask you to mourn with me.

Dr. Jane Aronson
CEO and President, Worldwide Orphans