30 minutes at the mortuary

My daring self never ceases to amuse me.

Last Friday, it got stubborn again, this time however for something a nightmare to many.

I set out to go to the Nairobi city mortuary, with two other colleagues, we decided to stroll the distance and finally we were at a place, not deserted, but for lack of a better word, de-congested.

Speak of a mortuary and you will be surprised the changes on people’s faces; mere frowns and sulks.

I know too well that as you read this, you are already wondering what I was up to.

Walk with me; let’s get into the mortuary. Caution: if you have a weak heart, don’t dare get in, ok?

Now pick your hankie and make sure you cover your nose properly, the stench here is horrible. And don’t even worry about the flies, they have a home here and they will welcome you even before you think of stepping inside the gate.

Right, let’s enter, one step in the gate, you do not want to let the other leg in but courage, let’s go, it is only for the adventurous.

Hey, do not throw up, I also have nausea. I also know you want to spit, for that, feel free because I cannot avoid it either.

Now, look to your right, you see those ladies?  They are also covering their noses and mouths, oh, look at the other one, she is even spitting, so you are not alone.

There you go, look under that tree; see that man in a white medical coat with gloves in his hands and gum boots in his feet? He also has a pad on his nose and mouth.

And at the door to the mortuary, that man, plus look at that woman in the same, she is freely eating, she should be used, looks like she works here.

The stench is also terrible for them.

The place is green although the breeze is contaminated.

The ladies sitting in the compound, and the other people you see around either work here or have come to look for bodies of their beloved ones, who they think could have died and brought here by police.

There is no laughing here. You laugh, you inhale, you smile, and your teeth are being contaminated too.

When that warden opens the door wide, a huge filthy smell comes out, in bulk you can literally feel it, you get nausea.

But wait, let me ask him if we can get in, but if we cannot hold our throats for a minute while we are outside, then what will happen when we get in, we might probably just die.

Courage- let us go

Can we get in please?

“No you cannot unless you have permission from the office to search for a body here,” he says

So those who have permission get in, huge pieces of clothes covering their noses-just imagine what they are about to see.

Freezers habouring dead bodies, both rotten and bolted. There are about 600 bodies here; you have to search until you find yours.

Every freezer is designated to carry 4 corpses, but when the numbers are high like the case is, over 10 can be packed in one.

“But bodies stay for a long time, many times people come to look for their relatives after 3 month, they are no longer bodies but maggots and that is the stench,” says the gentleman in a white coat

What about the drugs administered to preserve them?

“You know these drugs can only work for a short while and they do not stop decay,” he replies

Now, according to this gentle man, there is an average of 10 bodies coming in everyday, however on days like when there are accidents, the numbers go to about 25 and above.

These are people that police picks up on the roads, whose relatives are not known.

Ok, now, I really want to throw up, we need to get out of here, I cannot take it anymore, my air is stinking, my clothes too and I feel filthy, I just want shower.

I have to miss lunch because I cannot imagine eating while I smell the stench back there.

Back home, I take a warm soothing bath, I still smell it. Why did I go there?

“You are so daring,” my inner self reminds me.

Welcome back, was the journey worth?

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Sisters of Death; What does God think about your Business?

NTV Kenya is currently airing an investigative piece called “Sisters of death.”

It is about women who make alcohol mixed with antiretrovirals (ARVs) to make ends meet.

The documentary features HIV positive women in Korogosho slums in Kenya, selling the drugs they get for treatment, to other women involved in a liquor making business.

They sell Seven tablests for as low as 250 she (about 3dollars). Every patient is entitled to 60 drugs per month. So when they sell all in a month, they earn about…

They get these drugs free and sell to ‘be able to buy food.”

Well, everything is detailed in the video up here.

Here are my concerns.

First, the women who sell the drugs register at another health Centre as if they have never known their status, they are then enrolled twice and that means they get double the dose.

The drugs they get from the second clinic could have been taken by another patient.

All this happens at a time the government in Kenya and many African countries are decrying the scarcity of ARVs in face of the increasing Patient numbers.

This means that if this one lady gets double treatment, there is another patient who may not survive for another minute because her pre supposed dose is sold by another who wants to earn something small.

Yes.  They claim that they sell the drugs to buy food, but I find this too inhuman. If you can get little food and someone cannot live because they need ARVs that are in turn sold to make liquor, what is the gain?

Second, what do the women who buy the drugs for mixing in their liquor to sell think?

One of them says that even God knows she is not doing something wrong because she does it to survive and fend for my family.

These are the most inconsiderate people I have ever met.

What does this mean to the person denied of a life because the drugs she would have taken are mixed to make alcohol? Isn’t it possible that this person could even be related to you?

What does it even mean for the person who is going to consume the liquour? And what does it mean to you who, making such a ‘dangerous substance’?

This does not only depict the selfishness of Humanity, it also shows how much the world is going wild or better still coming to the Parousia days.

It shows how we are going against the love of Neighbour that God requires of us. Just because you want to survive, should you deny your neighbour of their survival too?

God says in his holy word…

Ask and you will receive whatever you need, pray and I will hear from heaven, and I will heal your land,

He says ask and I will give the nations to you.

O lord, I ask for the nations, please come and heal mother Africa, heal your people and all our grievances.

That each passing day, we may be mindful of the needs of others.

A stroll through kenya’s Kibera slums

Part of the slums as seen from atop the railway line

Yesterday afternoon, my adventurous self led me to Kibera slums.

Kibera is Kenya’s, East Africa’s and one of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest slums.

Even as I prepared to visit, I knew it wasn’t a safe place especially for a stranger like me, and more so a foreigner.

I tightened my belt, decided to dress casually (a boyfriend top, jeans and boots), carried no bag, crazed my baby locks and looked very simple so as to fit in the environment.

It was about a 20mins or so drive from the Nairobi city Centre in a matatu (public means) and I arrived at a rather congested place.

The moment I jumped out of the vehicle, I felt Insecure already, people hurriedly moved from and to every direction, people of all kinds, children, men and women, some smart but many of them dressed in dirty clothes.

As I waited for my friends who would guide the tour, I inevitably stood amidst this confusion, loud music of all flavours cutting through the waves, and hitting my ears, the people, walking and running past me, noise- these one shouting, children crying, many playing , while some laughed aloud.

The best I could do was to stare and stare and stare. This brought out the stranger in me, and got me excitement and afraid at the same time.

One, I was excited because I was about to explore and this is something I really love to do, two, I was afraid of the people I was about to meet and how they would behave towards me.

Finally my friend Robert Odingo was here and we started our tour.

“I feel insecure,” I told him.

“You better be,” he replied.

Robert knows Kibera much more than I do, he works with the Hot Sun foundation, a project seeking to transform lives of youth in this slum through visual arts (film making). They run a film school sponsored by the Belgian Embassy.
I got confortable the moment I got him and soon he led me to their offices where we met another friend Wycliff.

Wycliff is kibera himself, he told me he was born in this slum and has grown up here, he knows every corner of the eleven villages that make up these slums.

“You are safe with me, I know everybody here, and no one can touch you,” Wycliff assured me.

We were good to go, for sure, everywhere we passed, everyone greeted him, I was to secure, I thought.

Although they had given me an assurance that i was safe, i feared everyone who came close to me, I was cautious not to over look at people as i feared what their reactions towards a stranger would be.

One thing about this place like in any other slum, the people make it what it is, the population, the people are many, doing different activities.

Women sat at their stalls selling vegetables and commodities, some sat frying fish, samosas, roasting meat among others.

Men, majority of them drunk, stand or sit by the paths vending commodities like shoes, used metal , electrical appliances, to mention but a few.

Children played, everywhere, in a trenches, by the railway line, in ditches, they seemed not to care. Many ran from up and down and looked like they enjoy the life they live.

There is something about the people here, they are happy.

When you have a view of the houses before walking there, you may assume there are no walkways there in-between, they are there, very tiny though, you need to be careful as you walk as you may not avoid stepping in dirt , stool and stagnant water.

The houses, bent and on the verge of collapsing, many built of mad and wattle, short, and congested, you may assume no people live here, yet that is a lie, there are thousands of residents in here.

Many of the hoses you see here are also video halls. But almost each roof here has an antenna, it is crazy how there are so many video hall then.

There are also a remarkable number of bars; some people sell the liquor in the same houses in which they reside.

And as you walk……

Be sure to jump over trenches every after a minute, be sure to step over garbage, dirt water and sewage flows freely in here, may be in front of someone’s door, but still one prepares the food they eat just there, next to the trench of sewerage.

There is a railway line cutting through the slums, it is a long one that when followed leads you back to the city Centre, a lot of business take place along this line, vending of clothes, shoes, food commodities among others.

My visit was a Sunday afternoon, people her do pray, there are churches around the slums but there is a remarkable number of ‘Legio Maria believers, a group of believers who dress on white robes and walk around in groups, their churches are more or less the houses in which they live, Wycliffe told me this is a sect that seceded from the catholic church and they are quite many her in the slums.

There are other faiths too, not only Christians, Muslims too, it was Eid day, and there were a number of them.

Kibera slums are a mixture of all cultures, for the few hours I spent there; I met people of all kinds, speaking different languages.

The health here like in other slums leaves a lot to be desired, the drainage system is too poor, people ease themselves at convinience, anywhere, by the road side, by the railway line, in the trenches, next to a restaurant or even near the door. This poses a great risk to their health.

Some projects have been put in place to help keep health standards like building public latrines but the population is way too big compared to the facility.

The security, just like I felt insecure because of the way people are rough, this place is not safe especially to strangers. There are many bars, drug abuse is on, i met many of the kind, this gave me a picture of something like crime rate is significant.

For instance at the time of my visit, there was a guys, who seemed like a drug addict, he was gambling with kids, one thing that really amused me is that here, there is no police as such, but community policing is really in place.

A leader here, was forced to arrest this man together with the children and take him to the chief’s place where i was told they would be punished.

To also enhance the security, the government put installed flood lights to make sure the place is bright even during the night.

Of recent, there are so many projects coming up jeered at helping the ghetto dwellers, many by NGO’s and others by the government, helping drive behavior change especially among the youth, they hope this will change the way people here are perceived and have an impact on the way they live.

I also found something rather interesting about these slums, they are located at the other hand of a magnificent place, a road only cuts across, you literally see riches shaking hands with poverty.

I could not tour all the 11 villages in Kibera slums but after the few hours, I just got another view about life.
“While some people live, eat and sleep well, others just survive to see tomorrow.