Tears flowed freely at the Thika public cemetery on Sunday when hundreds of Kiandutu slum residents congregated to give a 16 year old severely disabled girl suspected to have died from malnutrition a heroic send-off.
The 16 year old Naomi Nyokabi hit the headlines two weeks ago when officers from the department of Social services and community Health workers forcefully burst into her mother’s house and rescued her after word went round that she was being mistreated to the extent of being denied food.
The irate residents called for justice for Nyokabi and demanded that the mother, Leah Muthoni who is said to have locked up the vulnerable girl in a dingy room within the slum and denied her food for over 3 months ought to face the full force of the law.
“Nyokabi’s death should serve as a lesson to every other parent who thinks that disabled children did not have the right to life,” lamented Eunice Mwangi one of the Community Health Workers who participated in rescuing the girl two weeks ago.
She revealed that for 15 years, Nyokabi’s father (name withheld) who had divorced his wife when Nyokabi was only 3 years old single handedly took care of the girl who was then showing a lot of vibrancy.
As adolescence set in, she added a resolution was made by the family and the Children’s Department to have her re-united with her mother a decision she said they regret as Nyokabi’s life took a nose dive and she has not recovered from the neglect accorded to her by her biological mother.
Ms Mwangi faulted the local administrators and community leaders within the slums for failing to respond quickly to the report given to them by members of the public who had suspected that Nyokabi was under torture and was in need of emergency rescue.
“If only the area Assistant chief had responded to the intelligence report that had been forwarded to him by members of the public early last month, the girl would have been rescued and would not have died prematurely,” said Eunice.
Speaking after the funeral, the founder of Embrace inclusion (An organization that deals with the disabled), Ms Lucy Macharia said that the disabled were still undergoing extreme discrimination and neglect especially in the slums despite the fact that the government has set apart millions of shillings to support them.
Ms Macharia called on parents with disabled children to desist from hiding them and instead enroll them with the Social Services Department for care and support.
She also advised them to participate in 2019’s National Census and register all disabled persons under their care adding that with the correct statistics the Government will be able to plan and provide them with finances and tools such as wheel chairs.
She said that organizations within Thika town that deal with the disabled had resolved to join hands and embark on a door to door rescue mission for severely disabled children who have been hidden from the public eye and cautioned that if such a case is discovered, they will take action against responsible caregiver.
Macharia lamented that Naomi died weighing 11 kilograms as a result of
severe malnutrition yet the mother used to benefit from the National Social Security Fund for the disabled.
She said that the mother should now be charged with murder since postmortem report revealed that Nyokabi died from severe malnutrition which she noted must have been as a result of lack of food.
Medics at Thika level 5 Hospital were saddened by Nyokabi’s death with nurses who attended to her for the one week that she had been admitted saying she had suffered acute malnutrition and their efforts to resuscitate her did not bear fruits.
By Lucy Wangai