I wish the term “in-law” meant something

Marriage is a nice social custom: Two families come together to share a common love.

Unfortunately, in the DR Congo, the bond between families usually ends with the death of the husband. Paternal grandparents “divorce” their former families and continue living as if their daughter-in-law or grandchildren did not exist.

I have cared for many patients that had gone to school, eaten well and lived happy lives prior to the death of their father. Then once their father died and his family cut ties, they plummeted into a life of extreme poverty.

One recent case highlights the problem. A child with a chronic medical condition was being supported by his paternal grandparents. He had great care and a bright future. Then the father died of a “mysterious disease” but most believed he was “poisoned”. Now the father’s family has abandoned the child, sentencing him to an early death.

(As a side note, two months after the father died, the mother discovered she was HIV positive on her first random testing.)

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