The dog barks uproariously as if to scare away the misfortunes that have dogged Jeremiah Kaingu Katana’s life for the last 20 years.
But Jeremiah’s misery cannot be chased away by the raucous bark of a chained canine. The mongrel has only managed to scare away any assistance that Jeremiah needs and thrown him into more hopelessness.
His fate seems to have been sealed, but resilience has kept him going. He hopes that one day, help will defy the ferocity of the hound and reach him.
20 years ago, Jeremiah lost the use of both his feet after he accidentally stepped on high voltage electric power cables while working as a casual labourer with Kenya Power then known as Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC).
“I have been forced to beg and depend on well-wishers to survive together with my aging mother and sick sister. My life is the epitome of misery and I appeal for help,” Jeremiah says as he lies on a tattered mattress inside a dingy rental room in Maweni, Malindi Town.
Several years after the accident, Jeremiah’s wife, who was eking a living through crushing coral rocks to make ballast for sale to put food on the family’s table, was hit by one of the rocks and died.
“We buried her together with the little happiness we had. Now we have been helpless as the only bread winner is my young son, who is suffering as he does menial jobs to take care of us,” Jeremiah says.
Recently one of his sisters suffered a stroke and is paralysed on one side of her body while another sister is suffering in the hands of foreign taskmasters in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is crying out for help to return home.
“My sister, Magdalene Pendo left the country to seek greener pastures in Dubai. She was initially received well and we enjoyed the fruit of her labour for two years,” he narrated, adding, “But now, Pendo’s employer has not paid her since February and has developed a habit of beating her up and refusing to give her food. She is pleading with us to bring her home, a feat that is insurmountable for us due to our destitute state,” Jeremiah says.
The doctor who used to treat Jeremiah from home also died, leaving him at the mercy of fate and sympathetic neighbours, who help buy the medicine and give Jeremiah to treat himself.
“I have been treating myself ever since, since the doctor told me what to do before he died. I send neighbours to bring me the medicine, which I apply on my wounds and bandage myself,” he says.
The 50-year old man also suffers from ulcers and looks older than his age due to years of depression caused by the successive mishaps. He depends on well-wishers to survive alongside his 75-year old mother and the ailing sister.
The family’s best company is the chained dog, which barks at the sight of any strangers, ostensibly to scare away thieves, who have on several occasions added misery by stealing whatever little is available, as Jeremiah’s only son strives with difficulties to fend for the family.
What is more disturbing in the mind of Jeremiah is that the company he was working for when the accident happened has not paid him a penny in compensation, nor has it in any way assisted him to get medication, “since I was just a casual labourer.”
He says he has made several trips to the company offices in Malindi to seek for assistance, but all he has received is sympathy without empathy.
“Whenever I go to the offices, the bosses there are very kind but they say the company cannot help me because I was a casual labourer with no written contract,” he says adding, “All I get is the same answer, ‘Jeremiah, there is nothing the company can do for you.’
Jeremiah says on the fateful day, he had reported at the KPLC offices in Malindi town when he and his colleagues were informed that there was an emergency in Bofa area of Kilifi Town.
“We boarded a company truck and rushed to the scene, about 65 kilometers away. As I disembarked from the truck, I stepped on a live power cable and fell down.
“I hit the cable with a dry stick but unfortunately, my left foot also stepped on another wire. I asked a colleague to buy me a packet of milk, which gave me relief and I worked as if nothing had happened,” he says.
He says when the crew arrived at the KPLC Malindi yard, they all disembarked and he went home, feeling sick, and that was the beginning of misery that has refused to leave his life for the last 20 years.
The widowed father of one is now appealing to well-wishers to help him get medication and food, as the only son he has is overwhelmed by the responsibilities laid on his shoulders at a tender age.
Jeremiah says he did not go to hospital to get treated, but a doctor, who was brought by his father (now deceased) volunteered to treat him at home. After the doctor’s death, Jeremiah became his own doctor.
75-year old Emily Katana, Jeremiah’s mother, says life has been unbearable since Jeremiah got injured, followed by the demise of her husband and daughter-in-law.
“My son used to take good care of us, but he one day came home injured on both feet. What we do not understand is why the company he worked for has not shown any concern while we have been reduced to beggars,” she says.
At her age, Mama Emily is expected to have started receiving the monthly Sh2,000 stipend for elderly persons under the government’s cash transfer programme, but she neither gets this money nor the stipend for vulnerable persons in which beneficiaries have been receiving Sh1,000 weekly since March, 2020 meant to cushion vulnerable persons from the effects of Covid-19.
She is appealing to the government and other well-wishers to come to her family’s aid – to help in the treatment of her son and daughter, provide the family with food as well as help Magdalene to return home from Dubai.
Anybody wishing to support Jeremiah can do so through his personal cell phone number 0746155368.
By Emmanuel Masha