08/10/2012 06:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Remembering Moguay

Jennie Goutet

When we returned to Hargeisa, Somaliland after spending three months in Djibouti setting up operations for our charity and four months in Nairobi, Kenya following the attack on 9/11, we learned that chubby little Kadra had died. She was the baby we thought would make it. She was doing so well, and due to the language barrier, we weren't even able to learn the cause of her death.

Another little creature, whose name I cannot remember, also died. This was less of a surprise. She was so thin, and with all the babies and children in the orphanage, her mealtimes were often little more than a bottle propped up next to her on the crib. But she was too weak to suck and could not gain her strength.

So it was my great desire that little Moguay not fall victim to the same fate. We lived not far from the orphanage and it was easy to walk there. Working around the time spent at the newly built Edna Adan Maternity Hospital, I often stopped by to visit Moguay and to pick him up and feed him with a medicine dropper. He was weak and needed this attention in order to fatten up. I also loved to just hold him and tell him he would grow up to be a big strong guy.


Moguay was left at the gates of the hospital a couple of months earlier. In this picture he was nine months old! His name means "does not know his father" because he was abandoned without any indication as to his clan. In the Somali culture, this is one of the worst things to befall someone because, although an orphan still has hope for a normal productive life, someone who doesn't know his family name -- and therefore his clan -- doesn't fit in anywhere in society.

Eventually the orphanage workers picked up on my concern for Moguay and started giving him more attention for his mealtimes, but he did not gain in strength.He continued to get sicker until one morning, someone from the orphanage came to our house early in the morning to urge me to take him to the hospital.

We set off immediately, and when we arrived, we discovered that some doctors from the U.K. had come to volunteer for a short time. I could see that the doctor was flustered, not having seen such a sick baby before. She studied her notes about rehydration and tried to give instructions about boiling water to purify it before mixing it with sugar -- his veins were too weak for an iv. She was frustrated that the nurses didn't seem to understand the urgency and took their time in preparing the mixture. I just held Moguay, caressed him, and talked to him.

When the entire morning went by and a staff member came to get me for lunch, I finally handed Moguay over to one of the nurses, explaining to him what I was doing and that I would be back after lunch. As I turned to leave, he started to go into convulsions and the head nurse whisked him over to the table to start CPR. I stood there in shock as she tried to revive him, such a little baby, such a little ribcage. When she saw that her efforts were in vain, she stopped, and calmly started to wash him, wrapping him in a clean white cloth. Then she handed him to me, laid her hand on my arm and said, "I'm sorry."

I carried his body, heavier in death than it was in life, and sat in the truck waiting for the driver to come. Tears streamed down my face, my chest constricted with grief that there was no more life in this baby. We drove to the orphanage, and as soon as we pulled up, one of the older orphans came to the car and started pestering me about getting them a computer. I said, "Not now, Dowood." He looked at me in astonishment and said, "Teacher! Are you cry?" With tears streaming down my face I just nodded my head. He asked, "But why?" I choked out, "Because Moguay died." He responded in confusion, "But... don't cry! It's just an orphan!"

I look at Moguay's picture now, his little face fraught with worry and hunger, and I still cry. I still get a lump in my throat because I know his story is just one of many. But I tell his story anyway because I want his name to be "He is remembered."

This is the first in a series of blogs on Global Motherhood as part of our BlogHer 2012 partnership with Johnson & Johnson.