Uh oh, you are using an old web browser that we no longer support. Some of this website's features may not work correctly because of this. Learn about updating to a more modern browser here.

Skip To Content

Meeting Chantal and her family

You could see it from your doorway, across the street, metres from your house, newly painted yellow. Two bright built blocks: a health centre. Beyond, volcanoes national park – a huge mountain clouded in mist, a volcano now sleeping.

We come from the direction of the health centre and our clothes are clean and gleaming. We come down a short dirt track from the main road and we stumble upon the beginnings of your family and house and mud and sticks. You’re a young family – I greet you and your husband, both 25 and your baby daughter. You welcome us.

When we arrive your child is sick. She walks absently near the doorway, a two year old with vomit on her chin. I’m not a doctor, I can’t remedy this child. What does a two year old being sick mean?

We introduce our feat in beaming yellow, like a beacon for your child. But you will not go. You cannot go. You cannot take your sick child there. You introduce yourself, Chantal. We film you and interview you and listen to you. And Kafka’s nightmare is revealed. The compulsory health insurance card.

$2 a year. Per person or child. It’s not a lot but then you don’t have it. Nor your husband or baby girl. This system keeps your new family out, no matter the financers of the bright yellow blocks: built to make sick children better and mothers deliver safely.

Like anyone would, I gave you the money myself: your daughter was treated and your family have the health cards for this year, now. It’s not the way we’re allowed work, but who could stand and watch?

Soon we’re on our way, further along the dirt roads, through mountains. I learn that more than a million people in this little country cannot afford the compulsory health card and therefore cannot access vital healthcare. Save the Children is here, it has a foot in the door, it’s working to make changes for the better. It’s not easy. The volcano is huge behind the new health centre. It’s me is who isn’t sleeping.

Share this article