Dilemmas While Walking




A child shakes uncontrollably: the plate with which he carried his kolo (an Ethiopian snack) face down, with its content emptied out on the gravel-filled earth. People from a nearby café watch on as this child, no more than nine years of age, convulses in an epileptic fit.

More and more strangers stop and look on, doing nothing, standing idle. A foreigner walks up to the child from among the crowd. He gets close to the child, who at this moment has ceased to convulse, and raises him from the ground. The child holds on to him.

The man puts the child on a more comfortable ground to sit on. The child accepts from other strangers an English cake from the bakery nearby and a Fanta to drink in hopes that the sugar would revive him.  The foreigner gives his jacket and wraps it around the child who seems shell-shocked. Some locals from the street come to the child to ask if this has happened to him before. The child does not reply. Soon after they hand him a 100 Br bill to compensate for the kolo lost.

The child is then offered to call his family, a hospital, someone or anyone. Slowly, despite people’s appeal otherwise, he gets up. With the foreigner’s light grey jacket still hanging from his small frame, he walks away cradling the emptied container that now holds his cake and Fanta.

The locals are digesting all that had happened as they slowly start to discuss if the child had faked his seizure. The guards and strangers share stories of similar situations they had witnessed before.

If a child of nine years or younger is forced to fake a seizure, for money, then is the bigger picture not more befitting of our attention as a society?

Is how we react when someone is in need not more important?

Clearly, this is not an isolated incident. Many have been faced with similar or worse experiences. Some fake illnesses and injuries for money as others are in crisis hoping someone will come to their rescue.

While many have become hardened by such fake incidents, others have a harder time turning a blind eye, much like a colleague who came late to work to confide in me how he and a stranger took it upon themselves to take a woman they found unconscious on the street to the hospital. In the end, the strangers exchanged numbers united in their solidarity for humanity.

I am sure many of us have faced incidents like these before. And we are faced with a constant dilemma of whether we should ignore it and pass or do what comes naturally to us as humans – help.

People’s primary concern is the interrogation that follows after taking an injured person to a hospital as if one was a suspect. Some have been told they were not allowed to leave until the family members arrive at the scene. While taking someone to the hospital is one thing, it is entirely different when one has to spend hours jumping through red tapes.

A taxi driver shared with me, “If I see a person lying on the road from a traffic accident and its night time, and I did not see the car that hit the person. I will not stop to take the person to the hospital. I do not want to be taken in as a suspect.”

While I do not know what the procedure is for incidents such as these, many also do not have a clue of what needs to be done during similar emergencies.

In broad daylight, as my friend and I were taking a walk, we saw a young man sprawled on the ground. Next to him was a building with its guards on site. I walked over there, asking if they could help us. They took a few steps back and announced that they prefer not to get involved. They cited that the person was not hurt on their ground; hence they could not take responsibility for him.

Legally this statement is true, but what was shocking was that they could not even give me a number I can call for an emergency of this type. They were not equipped with the information needed. Fortunately, the young man was faking, since the sight of the police seemed to cure his seizure completely.

Information is our friend. We need to know the numbers to call for emergencies and the right places to contact. Let us take the initiative to find out how we can be better citizens and watch out for each other.

As our city grows and some cannot grow in income alongside it, desperation spreads. I do not know if there are more con-artists or many have fallen behind and could use a helping hand. My only hope is that there will always be those who pick-up the sick from the ground.



By Hanna Haile
Hanna Haile (hannahaile212@gmail.com) is an Ethiopian writer, researcher and social worker who uses her writing to promote social and gender equality, identity and women’s rights. She is one of the organisers of Poetic Saturday at Fendika Cultural Centre where she performs spoken word poetry every first Saturday of the month.

Published on Nov 18,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 916]


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