Now, teams of scientists around the world are still trying to figure out whether the mosquito-borne Zika virus is indeed behind the birth of hundreds of babies with unusually small heads in Brazil, a country struggling to cope with the increasing cases of microcephaly.80% of the cases concentrated in northeastern Brazil, one of the poorest parts of the country. Julia Carneiro reports from there.
Little Sophia has her body balanced on an exercise ball and physiotherapist Jamy Liao is moving her back and forth.She is performing exercises to help stimulate her development. She is just a month old and meanwhile her mother is watching on.
Yanka is the youngest mother here. She is eighteen years old and Sophia is her second child. She was seven-month pregnant when she found out her baby had microcephaly.
That’s when her father left me. As soon as we found out, he told me I disgusted him that he despised me. Then he left me.
Yanka looks a teenager. She still is.And Sophia is wrapped in a blanket with the word “princess”.The baby’s head is smaller than normal and has wavy folds of skin.The doctors tell me it’s because her brain didn’t grow enough. So her scalp is a bit loose.
I wasn’t shocked when I heard she had microcephaly.But when she was born, I didn’t see any problems in her head. I didn’t see her malformation.I saw her and I fell in love with her.
Six mothers are seated in the waiting area.They all brought their babies for physiotherapy sessions and they’ve been coming here twice a week so by now they are like old friends and are laughing and socializing. This is the special unit set up to treat microcephaly cases. It’s a women only environment here until the fathers hardly ever bring the babies.
Like Yanka, others were left by their partners after having children with microcephaly.
A psychologist tells me, most of the mothers don’t get any financial or emotional support from their partners.Often they aren’t officially abandoned. But in fact they are left alone.I would say only ten percent of the women we see here get the support they need from their husbands.
That’s been very striking.