Mariam Nabatanzi gave birth to twins a year after she was married off at the age of 12. Five more sets of twins followed – along with four sets of triplets and five sets of quadruplets.
Three years ago, however, the 39-year-old Ugandan was abandoned by her husband, leaving her to support their surviving 38 children alone.
It was just the latest setback in a life marred by tragedy for Nabatanzi, who lives with her children in four cramped houses made of cement blocks and topped with corrugated iron in a village surrounded by coffee fields 50 km (31 miles) north of Kampala.
After her first sets of twins were born, Nabatanzi went to a doctor who told her she had unusually large ovaries. He advised her that birth control like pills might cause health problems. So the children kept coming.
Mariam Nabatanzi, 39, (second left) a mother of 38 children, takes a family portrait with some of her children at their home in Kasawo village, Mukono district, east of Kampala, Uganda
Nabatanzi was told by a doctor that she had unusually large ovaries and that birth control pills could be a health hazard, meaning that the babies kept coming
Some of her children rest on the veranda at their home in Kasawo village, Mukono district, east of Kampala, Uganda
Family sizes are at their largest in Africa. In Uganda, the fertility rate averages out at 5.6 children per woman, one of the continent’s highest, and more than double the global average of 2.4 children, according to the World Bank.
But even in Uganda, the size of Nabatanzi’s family makes her an extreme outlier.
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