Women looking for men in Campina grande

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By Stephen Eisenhammer. Before the baby was even born, the father had gone. The house, which overlooks a polluted stream on the edge of a poor neighborhood, is now home to a family of nine. And she chose her parents. Single parents are common in Brazil where some studies show as many as 1 in 3 children from poor families grow up without their biological father, but doctors on the frontline of the Zika outbreak say they are concerned about how many mothers of babies with microcephaly are being abandoned.

With the health service already under strain, abortion prohibited, and the virus hitting the poorest hardest, an absent father is yet another burden on mothers already struggling to cope with raising that might never walk or talk. At a specialized microcephaly clinic in Campina Grande, psychologist Jacqueline Loureiro works with mothers to help them cope with stress and trauma. Of the 41 women she counsels, she says only 10 receive adequate financial or emotional support from their partners. Gender roles are strictly defined and women still tend to care for the baby and look after the household.

The added burden of having with microcephaly strains this dynamic, says Loureiro, and often the man ends up leaving or refusing to help. Much remains unknown about Zika, including whether it actually causes microcephaly in babies.

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Brazil said it has confirmed cases of microcephaly since October, and considers most of them related to Zika infections in the mothers. It is investigating another 4, cases of suspected microcephaly.

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Until the World Health Organization declared Zika a global health emergency last month, there was little interest in microcephaly and no data for its toll on parents. But studies into children with other special needs shows it substantially increases the chance of marital breakdown. Jennifer Lewis, who runs the U. Her charity has a network of around 5, families and she says the majority are single mothers.

She also ensured a psychologist was hired at the clinic to offer support. Few Brazilian jobs give enough flexibility for parents to better share the responsibility of looking after with special needs. This is made even more difficult as parents must often travel for hours to visit the few specialized clinics operating in Brazil.

At the clinic in Campina Grande, year-old Rogerio dos Santos is one of only two fathers present. For fathers like dos Santos, the support network in Brazil is lacking. Whereas the clinic runs a support group for the mothers, there is no specific help offered for fathers.

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For Barker, the health sector needs to offer support specifically for men. In the small town of Algodao de Jandaira, an hour from Campina Grande, Josemary da Silva pours a cold bath to relieve her son Gilberto from the relentless heat. The five-month-old baby with microcephaly stops crying briefly as he is washed in a pale blue plastic tub. The father, after whom Gilberto is named, first saw his son one month after he was born and has rarely visited since.

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By Stephen Eisenhammer 6 Min Read. Ianka Mikaelle Barbosa, 18, poses for a photograph with Sophia, 18 days old, who is her second child and was born with microcephaly, at her house in Campina Grande, Brazil February 17,

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Brazil's mothers left to raise microcephaly babies alone