It was February 26, 2000, when a heavily pregnant woman and her relatives were forced to climb a tree to escape deadly floods that engulfed many parts of southern Mozambique.
After four days of desperately clinging on to tree branches, the expectant woman, Carolina Chirindza, went in to labor with her mother-in-law underneath her to prevent the baby from falling in to the muddy, crocodile-infested flood waters.
The baby girl that was born was named Rosita Mabuiango.
Pictures of her covered in dirty, drenched clothes moments after she and her mother were airlifted to safety moved the world.
The Blessing of Rosita
Four months after she was born, Rosita and her mother traveled to Washington, D.C., to convince U.S. Congress to expand aid to tens of thousands of Mozambicans affected by the floods.
Later, the government of Mozambique gave Rosita’s family a three-bedroom house in Chibuto, a city 280 kilometers northeast of Maputo, Mozambique’s capital.
Her mother was also hired as a cleaner by the district administrator.
“I was not prepared for this, but that’s what God wanted,” 39-year-old Chirindza told the AFP at the time.
However, the donations given to Rosita’s family led to domestic wrangles, after her estranged father, Salvador Mabuiango, sold off their possessions and also attempted to sell a portion of the land on which their house sits.
The court ended up stripping him of his parental rights.
Where Is the Tree-Top Miracle Baby Now?
Rosita Mabuiango, who was born on a treetop during the flood in 2000, later became Mozambique’s youngest Celebrity. pic.twitter.com/p9lkcyoYX4
— Africa Facts Zone (@AfricaFactsZone) March 26, 2016
Now a celebrity in Mozambique 17 years later, the soft-spoken Rosita doesn’t believe she is special, although her mother insists that their survival was a “miracle for sure.”
“I’m normal, it’s just a different way of being born. I think it’s God who chose that I be born that way,” Rosita told the AFP.
She also says she is glad that the public attention on her has faded, enabling her to live a normal life and concentrate on her schoolwork.
Rosita hopes to pursue a career in Petrochemical Engineering in order to secure a well-paying job in the recently discovered gas reserves off the coast of Mozambique.
When she is not in class, Rosita plays football for her Catholic high school and participates in several local junior clubs.
Rosita is currently living with her godmother, Ruth Valera, in Maputo, where she attends school. Valera is a renowned Mozambican fashion designer.