Faustin, abandoned at 7 with a gangrenous leg

Faustin was only seven when in July 2013 he was abandoned in front of the hospital of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. The child, with obvious signs of malnutrition, was in a critical state of health, especially owing to advanced gangrene in one leg, which the doctors were forced to amputate in order to save his life. The story of Faustin broadcast for days over the local radios did not pass unobserved by UNHCR staff, who immediately took an interest in the child in order to reconstruct his story and help him to take his first steps towards the future.

Faustin was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the tormented province of North Kivu. In 2011 the child’s parents were killed, and the child was taken to Malawi to stay with an uncle who very soon showed his true intentions: a jailer instead of a relative who to turn to for affection and protection. During the time of this ‘imprisonment’, Faustin was denied the possibility of going to school and in the hands of his tormentors became a servant to use as they thought fit. At times he had to go without food, and physical violence was the norm.

Despite the fact that Faustin was only a child, he decided that it was time to try and escape, but he was spotted by neighbours who caught him and handed him back to his family. This last attempt at flight cost him more painful punishment, a metal cable tied tightly round his ankle which very soon damaged his leg irremediably. Perhaps it was his state of health that alarmed his ‘guardians’, who abandoned him in front of Nkhoma Hospital and left the country as quickly as they could for Mozambique.

The months that Faustin spent at Nkhoma Hospital not only relieved his physical sufferings but also helped him to re-establish healthy contact with the world of adults. According to the hospital staff, the child showed great vitality and if it had not been for the obvious signs that he showed all over his body, it would have been difficult to imagine the traumas that he had undergone.

At the end of 2013, there was good news for the future of Faustin: the boy had been inserted in a re-collocation programme in the United States for unaccompanied minors, which would entrust Faustin to a family who would look after him and above all give him love. For Faustin it was like a dream come true. In the long months spent in hospital his most frequent request had been simple and moving: “I want a new house and a new mum”.

A huge crowd accompanied Faustin to the airport the day of his departure. There were members of UNHCR and doctors and nurses who had followed him during all those months before. The hospital director who wished him a brilliant school career didn’t stop to think how different the dreams of a child are: “Are there many toys in America?” Faustin asked the people accompanying him and in that question was the confirmation that despite the harshness that life had reserved for him, the little boy had preserved at least a little corner of his precious childishness.

Today Faustin lives in the United States of America and has found his new mum. Malawi contains around 17,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Most of them come from the Democratic Republic of Congo.