‘I want to lie on a mattress before I die’ – Old Lady Yaya Kwanjit

You may have an earnest dream to build a mansion or drive a posh car before you depart from earth but an old lady, Yaya Kwanjit, in a deprived community of Saanbona in the North East region has just one dying wish: to lie on a mattress.

Yaya does not know her age, yet she firmly maintains that she is way younger than she looks currently. She blames poverty for draining all youthful juices in her – leaving her blind and old.

She lost her sight after giving birth to her second child, a condition she believes would not have afflicted her if she had money.

She tries to define what poverty means to her: “poverty is when you depend on people for everything. Poverty is when you can’t eat your favourite food. I want to eat banku, fish, rice, koose, drink malt and other drinks but I have no means. This is what I consider as poverty.”

She recounts that her two sons travelled to southern Ghana in search of supposed better living conditions but only one visits her occasionally. The other son, however, has never returned but Yaya harbours no hard feelings she blames his long absence on poverty. 

She said, “my son was very young when he left. This community is very poor so he had no choice but to leave. I heard he had a family down south but he has never contacted me. I don’t blame him I know life is hard down south”.

Many times she is left to battle life alone. She gropes for her stick and does virtually every domestic chore herself. On this particular day, she lights a fire and prepares tuo zaafi with okro, a food she has grown tired of eating but has no choice but to eat and survive.

“Sometimes I want to drink malt, eat banku and other meals but I can’t afford”, she added.

‘I want to lie on a mattress before I die’ old lady Yaya Kwanjit
Yaya Kwanjit

The children in the community support by fetching water for her.

She plants her own okro and periodically gets maize from her son and sometimes people in the community.

But there are also days that Yaya Kwajit goes without any food. “Sometimes the people in the community assume I am ok. There are days I have nothing but to rely on water. God always sees me through”, she whispered.

Government’s poverty alleviation programme, Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), currently offers cash handouts to some 330,000 households in the country, which represents an estimated 1,650,000 people.  According to UNICEF Ghana, there are however an estimated 750,000 more poor Ghanaians who are not beneficiaries. 

Yaya Kwanjit, is one of them. She is aware of the LEAP programme and knows some members of the community where she lives who are given the cash handouts and would wish to be added so she could meet some of the bare necessities of life.

Out of the 330,000 households and 1,650,000 individuals captured under the LEAP to receive cash support, she was not captured.

Yaya’s National Health Insurance card has also expired and so she does not attend the hospital when ill. Although, she is thankful to God for good health but wants her insurance card renewed also.

She has been sleeping on the bare floor all her life and rarely sleeps on a mat.

But Yaya has one last wish before she dies; “before I die, I want to sleep on a mattress. Now I don’t even have a mat. The only thing I want is a mattress”.

To improve her life, the East Gonja district should strongly consider visiting her and also enrolling her on the LEAP programme.

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