Museveni Rules Out National Lockdown As Ebola Cases Rise In Uganda

A file photo of Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni
A file photo of Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni

 

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday reiterated his refusal to impose a nationwide Covid-like lockdown to contain the spread of Ebola despite a worrying increase in cases.

Since the health ministry first declared an Ebola outbreak in the central district of Mubende, the disease has spread across the East African nation, including to the capital Kampala.

But Museveni ruled out any plans for a nationwide lockdown, instead urging citizens to “be more vigilant” and observe measures put in place to control the spread of Ebola.

“There will be NO LOCKDOWN. Therefore, people should go ahead and concentrate on their work without any worry,” he said on Twitter.

The death toll from the highly contagious disease currently stands at 49, according to the Ugandan government.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday said the country had registered over 150 confirmed and probable cases, including 64 fatalities.

Ebola is spread through bodily fluids, with common symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea.

Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments.

READ ALSO: Kenya Sending Troops To DR Congo To Fight Rebel Advance

People who are infected do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.

The outbreak was declared on September 20, and eight days later Museveni declared any nationwide lockdown was “not necessary.”

In October, however, he imposed a lockdown on two districts, Mubende and Kassanda, setting a dusk-to-dawn curfew, banning travel and closing markets, bars and churches for 21 days.

He also ordered the police to arrest anyone infected with Ebola who refused to isolate.

WHO on Wednesday warned that there was a high risk of Ebola spreading further and called on neighbouring countries to boost their preparedness.

Uganda’s last recorded fatality from a previous Ebola outbreak was in 2019.

The particular strain now circulating in Uganda is known as the Sudan Ebola virus, for which there is currently no vaccine, although there are several candidate vaccines heading towards clinical trials.

The worst Ebola epidemic in West Africa between 2013 and 2016 killed more than 11,300 people.

AFP

As Ebola Spreads In Kampala, WHO Urges Uganda’s Neighbours To Prepare

This file photo taken on August 15, 2014 shows an MSF medical workers checking their protective clothing in a mirror at an MSF facility in Kailahun, epicentre of the world’s worst Ebola outbreak. CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

 

The World Health Organization warned Wednesday that Ebola’s arrival in the Ugandan capital highlighted the high risk of further spread of the deadly virus, calling on neighbouring countries to boost their preparedness.

Since Uganda’s health ministry first declared the outbreak on September 20, the country has registered over 150 confirmed and probable cases, including 64 deaths, WHO said.

And since the deadly disease spread to Kampala last week, 17 cases have been confirmed there, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.

“Although these cases are linked to known clusters, the very fact that there are cases in a densely populated city underscores the very real risk of further transmission,” he said, speaking from WHO headquarters in Geneva.

There is a “very urgent need for increased readiness in districts and surrounding countries,” he warned.

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Ebola is spread through bodily fluids, with common symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea, and combatted through time-honoured ways of tracing, containing and quarantining.

Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments.

“Ebola in a complex, urban city like Kampala is not easy, and we have to do everything possible to pull every chain of transmission,” the WHO’s incident manager Abdi Mahamud told reporters.

Tedros said the UN health agency had on Tuesday released an additional $5,7 million from its contingency fund for emergencies, in addition to the $5 million previously released to address the Uganda crisis.

WHO, he said, was working closely with the Ugandan government and partners to respond to the outbreak, and was calling for “a strengthened global response and increased donor investment.”

Uganda’s last recorded fatality from a previous Ebola outbreak was in 2019.

The particular strain now circulating in Uganda is known as the Sudan Ebola virus, for which there is currently no vaccine, although there are several candidate vaccines heading towards clinical trials.

AFP

Children Among 11 Killed In Uganda School Fire

The front of a burnt dormitory at Salama school for the blind in Luga, Uganda, on October 25, 2022.  (Photo by BADRU KATUMBA / AFP)

 

Eleven people, mostly children, have perished in a blaze that tore through a dormitory at a school for the blind in Uganda in the early hours of Tuesday as pupils were sleeping.

“The cause of the fire is currently unknown but so far 11 deaths as a result of the fire have been confirmed while six are in critical conditions and admitted (to hospital),” the Uganda Police Force said on Twitter.

The disaster occurred at about 1 am (2200 GMT Monday) at the Salama School for the Blind in the Mukono district, east of the capital Kampala.

Police said an investigation had been launched into the cause of the inferno and more details would be released later.

“Most of the dead are children at the school and our sympathies go to the parents,” Internal Affairs Minister General Kahinda Otafiire told AFP.

He said the school has been cordoned off as a “crime scene” and vowed that there would be a full investigation.

“As a government, we shall go to the root cause of the fire and if there are any culprits they will be apprehended and the law will take its course,” he added.

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The school’s headmaster Francis Kirube, who is also blind, told AFP the flames swept through the dormitory as the pupils slept.

Images broadcast on Ugandan television showed a charred but still largely intact building where the fire broke out, its window frames and door blackened and the corrugated roof damaged.

Forensic teams were seen in white protective gear at the school while grieving parents gathered nearby.

 ‘He is Gone’ 

Richard Muhimba, the distraught father of one of the dead children, told AFP: “No words can explain the pain I am going through.

“I visited my child on Saturday, he was in good health and in less than three days he is gone… Please give me time to go through this pain,” said Muhimba, before hanging up.

A friend told AFP that the child was aged 15 and that Muhimba was a father of five.

Salama was built in April 1999 by the local government in Mukono and caters for children and young adults between the ages of six to 25.

Princess Anne, the sister of King Charles III, had been due to visit the school during her trip this week to Uganda, which marked its 60th anniversary of independence from Britain earlier this month.

The East African nation has suffered a string of deadly school fires in recent years.

In November 2018, 11 boys perished and another 20 suffered severe burns in a suspected arson attack at a boarding school in southern Uganda.

In April 2008, 18 schoolgirls burned to death along with one adult when a fire engulfed their dormitory at a junior school near the Ugandan capital.

In March 2006, at least 13 children were killed and several hurt when fire razed an Islamic school in western Uganda. In July the same year, six children died in a similar fire in the east.

AFP

11 Killed In Fire At Uganda School For The Blind

Uganda map

 

 

Eleven people have been killed in a blaze that tore through a school for the blind in central Uganda in the early hours of Tuesday, police said.

“The cause of the fire is currently unknown but so far 11 deaths as a result of the fire have been confirmed while six are in critical conditions and admitted (to hospital),” the Uganda Police Force said on Twitter.

The disaster occurred at about 1 am (2200 GMT Monday) at the Salama School for the Blind in Mukono, southeast of the capital Kampala.

Police said an investigation had been launched into the cause of the fire but did not specify if the victims were all students at the school.

Salama was built in April 1999 and caters for children and young adults between the ages of six to 25.

Several fires have broken out at schools in the East African nation in recent years.

In November 2018, 11 boys perished and another 20 suffered severe burns in a suspected arson attack at a boarding school in southern Uganda.

Uganda Ebola Outbreak Death Toll Up To 29 –  WHO

This file photo taken on June 28, 2014, shows a member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated.  CELLOU BINANI / AFP

 

Sixty-three confirmed and probable cases have been reported in the Ebola outbreak in Uganda, including 29 deaths, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the vaccines used to curb recent outbreaks in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo were not effective against the type of Ebola virus circulating in Uganda.

And he said the Uganda outbreak was taking a toll on health workers.

“So far, 63 confirmed and probable cases have been reported, including 29 deaths,” Tedros told a press conference in Geneva.

“Ten health workers have been infected and four have died. Four people have recovered and are receiving follow-up care.”

He said the WHO was supporting the Ugandan government in its response to the outbreak, which has been reported in four districts.

The UN’s health agency has released $2 million from its contingency fund for emergencies and is working with partners to support the health ministry by sending additional specialists, supplies and resources, Tedros said.

“When there is a delay in detecting an Ebola outbreak, it’s normal for cases to increase steadily at the beginning and then decrease as life-saving interventions and outbreak control measures are implemented,” he said.

“The vaccines used successfully to curb recent Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo are not effective against the type of Ebola virus that’s responsible for this outbreak in Uganda.

“However, several vaccines are in various stages of development against this virus, two of which could begin clinical trials in Uganda in the coming weeks, pending regulatory and ethics approvals from the Ugandan government.”

AFP

Likelihood Of Ebola Spread To Nigeria High, NCDC Warns

File photo of Ebola aide workers.

 

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), has rated Nigeria’s risk of an Ebola outbreak as high.

This was contained in a statement by the NCDC on Tuesday as Uganda continues to grapple with an outbreak of the deadly disease.

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The statement read in part, “Based on available data, the overall risk of importation of the Ebola virus and the impact on the health of Nigerians has been assessed as HIGH for the following reasons:

“The Sudan Ebola Virus does not currently have an effective drug for treatment or licensed vaccine for prevention.

“The extent of the outbreak in Uganda has not yet been ascertained as investigations have shown that some persons may have died with similar symptoms which were not reported to health authorities. In addition, their burials were not conducted safely to prevent transmission.

“The case fatality rate of the Sudan virus varied from 41% to 100% in past outbreaks.

“The likelihood of importation to Nigeria is high due to the increased air travel between Nigeria and Uganda, especially through Kenya’s Nairobi airport, a regional transport hub, and other neighbouring countries that share a direct border with Uganda.

“The likelihood of spread in Nigeria following importation is high due to the gatherings and travel associated with politics, the coming yuletide as well as other religious gatherings and festivals during the last few months of the year.”

However, the NCDC said Nigeria was equipped to react effectively to an outbreak.

It said, “Despite this risk assessment, Nigeria has the capacity – technical, human (health workforce), and diagnostic – to respond effectively in the event of an outbreak. This is exemplified by our successful response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, as well as improvements in our capacity for health emergency response during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have the diagnostic capacity to test for the EVD presently at the National Reference Laboratory in Abuja and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital’s Centre for Human and Zoonotic Virology Laboratory.

“However, diagnostic capacity will be scaled up to other laboratories in cities with important Points of Entry (POE) and others as may be required. An effective response system is in place with the availability of control capacities (trained rapid response teams, and an effective infection prevention and control programme) to limit the risk of spread in the event of a single imported case.”

 

14 Civilians Killed In DR Congo Militia Attack

DR Congo flag.

 

Fighters from a notorious militia hacked 14 civilians to death in an attack in eastern DR Congo, local officials said Sunday, in the latest violence to hit the turbulent region.

Suspected ADF militants on Saturday evening entered Kyamata, in Ituri province’s Banyali Tchabi chiefdom, and killed 14 people “by machete”, said Jacques Anayey Bandingama, the head of a local youth group.

The fighters also wounded two others and torched 36 houses in the village, he added.

Banyali Tchabi Chief Etienne Babanilau Tchabi confirmed the death toll to AFP and said that the victims had been buried in a common grave.

“This attack threatens the return of my people,” he told AFP. “My chiefdom is empty. Seventy percent of people are displaced.”

Armed groups have roamed the volatile east of the Democratic Republic of Congo for decades, many of them a legacy of wars that flared in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) — which the Islamic State group claims as its Central African offshoot — is among the most violent of more than 120 movements active in the region.

It has been accused of slaughtering thousands of Congolese civilians and carrying out bomb attacks in neighbouring Uganda.

Faustin Mboma Babanilau, the president of a cultural association in Banyali Tchabi, blamed the attack on a lack of army presence in the area.

“In the office of the chiefdom, for example, there are only two soldiers,” he said. “Go figure.”

Lieutenant Jules Ngongo, a Congolese army spokesman, condemned the attack and appealed for calm.

“Our services are on the ground and will be able to give us the final toll,” he told AFP.

The DRC and Uganda launched a joint offensive against the ADF in November 2021, but the militia continues to wreak havoc across swathes of territory.

Faced with continued attacks from various militias, the Congolese government last year also placed Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu province under emergency administration in a bid to quell the violence.

Under this so-called “state of siege”, the government replaced senior civilian officials with members of the security forces. Attacks have continued, however.

AFP

Ebola Deaths In Uganda Climb To Seven

This file photo taken on June 28, 2014, shows a member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. CELLOU BINANI / AFP

 

The death toll from an Ebola outbreak in Uganda has risen to seven, the health ministry said Friday, after President Yoweri Museveni ruled out a lockdown to contain the highly contagious virus.

Authorities declared an outbreak in the central district of Mubende last week, the East African nation’s first Ebola fatality  since 2019.

On Friday, the health ministry shared a graphic on Twitter showing that the cumulative deaths were now seven, up from five on Wednesday, while the total number of confirmed cases had reached 35.

In a televised press briefing on Wednesday, Museveni said some 19 others classified as probable Ebola cases had also died, but said they were buried before they could be tested for infection.

Since the initial outbreak was discovered in Mubende, infections have been found in three other districts — Kassanda, Kyegegwa and Kagadi — but Museveni vowed not to cordon off the affected regions.

“We decided that we shall not have lockdowns. It is not necessary,” the 78-year-old leader said, telling Ugandans that there was “no need for anxiety”.

Ebola is an often-fatal viral haemorrhagic fever named after a river in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where it was discovered in 1976.

Human transmission is through body fluids, with the main symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea.

Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments.

People who are infected do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.

At present there is no licensed medication to prevent or treat Ebola, although a range of experimental drugs are in development.

Uganda, which shares a porous border with the DRC, has experienced several Ebola outbreaks, most recently in 2019 when at least five people died.

The DRC on Tuesday declared an end to an Ebola virus outbreak that emerged in eastern North Kivu province six weeks ago.

Only one case of the virus had been confirmed, according to the World Health Organization, making the DRC’s Ebola outbreak its “least catastrophic”.

The worst epidemic in West Africa between 2013 and 2016 killed more than 11,300 alone. The DRC has had more than a dozen epidemics, the deadliest killing 2,280 people in 2020.

AFP

Uganda Confirms Six More Cases Of Ebola, One Death

This file photo taken on August 15, 2014 shows an MSF medical workers checking their protective clothing in a mirror at an MSF facility in Kailahun, epicentre of the world’s worst Ebola outbreak.
CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

 

Six new cases of Ebola have been found in Uganda, the World Health Organization said Thursday after the country reported its first fatality from the highly contagious virus since 2019.

Uganda’s health ministry declared an Ebola outbreak in the central district of Mubende on Tuesday, announcing the death of a 24-year-old man.

“So far, seven cases, including one death, have been confirmed to have contracted the Sudan ebolavirus,” the WHO said in a statement, referring to a relatively rare strain of the virus.

“Forty-three contacts have been identified and 10 people suspected to have caught the virus are receiving treatment at the regional referral hospital in Mubende,” it said.

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“Our experts are already on the ground working with Uganda’s experienced Ebola control teams to reinforce surveillance, diagnosis, treatment, and preventive measures,” said Abdou Salam Gueye, regional emergency director with the WHO Regional Office for Africa.

Uganda — which shares a porous border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) — has experienced several Ebola outbreaks in the past, most recently in 2019, when at least five people died.

The DRC last month recorded a new case in its violence-wracked east, less than six weeks after an epidemic in the country’s northwest was declared over.

Ebola is an often fatal viral haemorrhagic fever. The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.

First identified in 1976 in the DRC (then Zaire), the virus, whose natural host is the bat, has since set off a series of epidemics in Africa, killing around 15,000 people.

Human transmission is through body fluids, with the main symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea.

Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments.

People who are infected do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.

At present, there is no licensed medication to prevent or treat Ebola, although a range of experimental drugs are in development and thousands have been vaccinated in the DRC and some neighbouring countries.

The worst epidemic in West Africa between 2013 and 2016 killed more than 11,300 alone. The DRC has had more than a dozen epidemics, the deadliest killing 2,280 people in 2020.

AFP

Uganda Pays First $65m To DR Congo As War Reparations

In this file photo, an employee shows US dollar banknotes at a foreign currency brokerage office in Khartoum on October 7, 2018.  ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP

 

Uganda has made the first payment towards a $325 million bill it was ordered to pay by a UN court for invading eastern DR Congo during the Second Congo War, the Congolese government said.

Uganda transferred $65 million to its western neighbour on September 1, according to minutes of a cabinet meeting released at the weekend.

The sum is the first of five annual payments Kinshasa was awarded in damages and interest by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in February, Justice Minister Rose Mutombo told ministers on Friday.

The decision was issued after a years-long legal battle mounted by Kinshasa for Uganda’s invasion in the 1998-2003 conflict.

At its height, the conflict drew in nine African countries, with Uganda and Rwanda backing rebel forces against the Congolese government as they jostled for control of mineral-rich Ituri province.

READ ALSO: Homes ‘Swept Away’ After S.Africa Mine Dam Burst

The ICJ said that of the $325 million, $225 million was for loss of life, $40 million for property damage and $60 million for damage to natural resources.

DR Congo had demanded $11 billion.

The money is being held in a Congolese bank in a provisional justice ministry account, the cabinet was told.

It cannot be used until a special compensation fund for victims becomes operational.

Kampala lashed the ruling as unjust and incorrect, noting it was delivered as relations between the two countries have been improving.

Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo launched a joint operation last November against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a bloody militia that the Islamic State group says is its central African affiliate.

AFP

Death Toll From Uganda Floods Jumps To 22

Uganda map

 

The number of people killed in flash floods in the eastern Ugandan city of Mbale has jumped to 22, including a group of partygoers who became trapped in a minibus, police said on Monday.

Two rivers burst their banks at the weekend after the city was battered by heavy rainfall, leading to mudslides that inflicted widespread damage and left hundreds of residents homeless.

A combined force of police, the army and the Red Cross were continuing to search for the missing in the muddy floodwaters that have swallowed up homes, bridges, shops, and roads.

“The death toll of those killed by floods in Mbale has reached 22. Ten others are in critical condition,” Ugandan police spokesman Fred Enanga told AFP.

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Some of the victims were found trapped in a minibus, he said, adding: “These were mainly relatives and friends who were going to a party but were swept off the road by the floods.”

An AFP reporter saw five dead bodies being pulled from the submerged minibus as search teams hunted around the ill-fated vehicle for more possible victims.

Enanga said residents have been advised to relocate to safer areas as the rains continue to lash the city, which lies about 300 kilometres (180 miles) northeast of the capital Kampala.

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, who visited the scene of the flooding, had suggested the disaster may have been avoided if people had not encroached on the river banks.

Mbale District, which is home to Mbale city, has a population of over 500,000, according to the 2020 census, and is one of Uganda’s densely populated areas.

AFP

Hunger Claims Children In Forgotten Corner Of Uganda

A Malnourished child stands at Moroto regional referral hospital in Moroto, Karamoja region, Uganda, on May 23, 2022. (Photo by Badru KATUMBA / AFP)

 

 

In one of Uganda’s poorest and most lawless regions, anxious mothers clutch bone-thin infants in a malnutrition ward, terrified their child could be next to succumb to starvation in Karamoja.

One of Maria Logiel’s youngsters, too weak to sit up, bears telltale skin lesions caused by extreme hunger. The other, strapped to her back, stares gauntly from sunken eyes.

“I came with these two because they were badly off, and going to die,” Logiel told AFP at a hospital in Karamoja, a vast and isolated northeastern border region afflicted by drought, disease and armed bands.

“(But) I left two others home, and I worry that by the time I get back, they’ll be no more,” the 30-year-old mother said.

More than half a million people are going hungry in Karamoja, some 40 percent of the population of this neglected, long-suffering rural region between South Sudan and Kenya.

 

Members of the Village Health Team (VHT) conduct a mass nutrition screening in Lomusian, Karamoja region, Uganda, on May 26, 2022.  (Photo by Badru KATUMBA / AFP)

 

Natural disasters, plagues of locusts and army worms, and raids by heavily-armed cattle thieves have left little to eat.

As food has become ever more scarce, Karamoja’s most vulnerable residents are struggling to survive.

“In three months we have lost more than 25 children under five due to the malnutrition,” said Doctor Sharif Nalibe, the district health officer in Kaabong, one of Karamoja’s worst-hit districts.

“And these were the ones under our care, but (who) were brought at the last minute to the hospital. But there are many who die and (are) not reported in the communities.”

 

 

Ruth Abbo (L), 9, holds her malnourished four-year-old sister as they have been stranded after their mother abandoned them at Kaabong hospital in Kaabong, Karamoja region, Uganda, on May 25, 2022. (Photo by Badru KATUMBA / AFP)

 

– Out of sight –
Starvation in Karamoja is going largely unnoticed as higher-profile crises, including looming famine in the Horn of Africa, and the war in Ukraine, compel global attention.

Even in Uganda, the desperation is out of sight, unfolding 500 kilometres (310 miles) from the capital Kampala in a part of the country long written off as harsh and volatile.

But the level of hardship is extraordinary, even by the extremes sometimes endured in Karamoja.

Across the region, about 91,600 children and 9,500 pregnant or breastfeeding women are suffering from acute malnutrition and need treatment, according to the latest assessment by humanitarian agencies and foreign donors.

“In terms of acute malnutrition… this year we have experienced the worst that we have had in the last 10 years,” said Alex Mokori, a nutrition specialist from UNICEF, which is screening for malnutrition in Karamoja with local authorities.

Logiel said she resorted to foraging to put food on the table, but the wild plants often made her children sicker.

In desperation, she would sometimes purchase the mealy dregs from a popular locally-made sorghum brew called “malwa”, even if the effect was mildly alcoholic.

Half a litre of this residue goes for about 40 US cents — often more than she could afford.

“Often we failed to raise money and the children sleep hungry,” Logiel said.

 

Vendors sell vegetables at a market in Soroti, Karamoja region, Uganda, on May 27, 2022.  (Photo by Badru KATUMBA / AFP)

 

 

– ‘Worse to come’ –
With a porous border and thriving illicit trade, Karamoja has endured decades of tit-for-tat armed cattle raids between nomadic clans that wander the lawless frontier between Uganda, South Sudan and Kenya.

These incursions make life even more miserable for Karimojong communities entirely reliant on livestock and crops to survive, and government interventions to disarm rustlers have not stopped the cycles of violence.

The erratic effects of a changing climate — Karamoja is experiencing harsh drought, but last year witnessed damaging floods and landslides — have only multiplied the hardships bearing down on the region.

“Now, with the prolonged drought, and cattle rustlers, and communities left with no source of livelihood, we are heading for the worst,” said Nalibe, the Kaabong district health officer.

For some, the worst has already arrived.

Nangole Lopwon went to sell firewood in a nearby village and left her hungry twins with one of her older children, only to return and find one of the young ones had died.

“What could I do? The child was not sick. It was purely hunger that killed him,” said the mother of five from Kaabong.

Now she, too, is malnourished, and the surviving twin in a dire state.

“Even this one is about to die,” she wailed.