Rajabu is stuck in a downward spiral of poverty as he deals with the realities of having tuberculosis.
“My name is Rajabu and I am 40 years old. I am married and have four children under the age of 15. Life has become very challenging since I fell sick with tuberculosis (TB). Every day is a struggle to survive. I have no steady income, and my family depends on me to provide for them. It’s painful not being able to support them. I have to stay home, isolated from the community, and it’s lonely.
I moved to Dar es Salaam in 2003, hoping for a better life, but now I find myself battling with my health. I knew this was different when I got sick. I was always tired, sweating as I was in and out of fever, and completely lost my appetite. When I started experiencing abdominal pain, I went to the clinic for a checkup. The doctors wanted to test me for TB.
I went through a series of medical tests to diagnose my TB. It started with an ultrasound of my abdomen to rule out any other issues, but nothing was found, and the problem persisted. Eventually, I had to provide two sputum samples for further screening, and that’s when I learned that the clinic sends one of the samples to APOPO for testing using trained rats. The next day I was called back and received the news that I was TB positive. It was a difficult moment to accept.
I can’t pinpoint exactly how I caught TB, but I suspect it might have been from sharing bottles of drinking water during my daily struggle to survive. I don’t have a permanent job. I look for daily jobs in construction or wherever I can find work and had to stop once I knew I had TB. Having TB has turned my life upside down. It’s difficult to find work when people know I’m sick, and the stigma surrounding my illness only adds to the challenges. But I have to keep going for the sake of my children. This disease has already had a significant impact on my family’s finances. I feel guilty and sad for not being able to support my family. Tuition and even basic school supplies for our children have become unaffordable.
The medication for TB is essential for my health, but it also adds to the burden. My family and I live day by day, not knowing where our next meal will come from. It’s a constant worry. I have to walk to the hospital for my medication since I can’t afford any other means of transportation. Luckily, the medicine is provided to me free of charge.
My family’s situation remains dire. I know what is at stake, I must recover for everyone’s sake. Once I am a bit stronger, I can go back to work. Right now, we rely on the goodwill of others to survive. I have also had to borrow money which has put us in debt. The uncertainty of our future weighs heavily on me. I hope that once I recover, I can find a job that will provide stability for my family and improve our living conditions. The side effects of the medication do take their toll, causing me to feel dizzy and nauseous while my joints ache. It doesn’t help that we are currently on one meal a day.
However, since my TB diagnosis and the start of my treatment, I have noticed improvements. The sweating and fever have stopped, and I feel stronger physically. It’s a relief to see some progress. I am slowly recovering. I’m still processing the idea that rats played a role in detecting my TB. It’s a new concept for me, but if they can help save lives like mine, then it’s something to be appreciated. I’m grateful for their contribution to my life. If it weren’t for them, I may not have been here today.”