According to the United Nations, Kenya faces an infanticide crisis, with 59.3 per cent of unmarried and sexually active adolescent girls failing to use contraception. This results in an estimated 40% of unwanted pregnancies in the country. While women are considered to be the backbone of any economy, and children as security for family lineage and against human extinction, the high rates of neonatal mortality indicate otherwise in Kenya. This is largely driven by poverty among other issues, that lead to mothers seeking horrific ways to deal with their unwanted children, after successfully giving birth to them.
Pauline Gorodi, an Art for Children Foundation (A4C) volunteer, encountered such a case impending on Sunday 19th February 2023. After the Sunday service, Pauline was asked by her friends to accompany them in visiting Elizabeth, a sick friend of theirs. At Elizabeth’s house, they found her – though sick – already hosting Lydia (not her real name) – a lactating mother with a close to one-month-old infant.
During the introductions, Pauline talked of her volunteering with A4C. It is here that Elizabeth asked for Pauline’s number, and later privately contacted her with concerns about the life of the infant. Since giving birth to baby Mary (the infant), Lydia has constantly expressed and sought support from Elizabeth in killing her baby as she is an unemployed single mother and wants nothing to do with the baby.
Elizabeth’s case is not a new one in Kenya. Some mothers are known to feed their babies with fizzy drinks, in place of breast milk, resulting in critical organ failure and death of their unwanted babies. There have also been numerous cases, both in the mainstream media and the community, of babies being dumped and left to die in rubbish, rivers, and even pit latrines. For instance, In May 2019, a clean-up of river Nairobi saw the corpses of eight infants extracted from the rubbish in the river. In mid 2021, another volunteer came across a human foetus dumped in a trench, in Naivasha.
This is one of the many factors that saw Nakuru County ranked as the third leading county, out of forty-seven counties, in child violence in Kenya in 2020. Having been internally trained on child protection and mental health, and with the help of A4C’s policies, Pauline immediately took action by first going back to Elizabeth’s house and having a conversation with Lydia, to persuade her not to kill baby Mary. These saw Pauline and Lydia, together with her baby, visit the Children’s Office – Naivasha branch, on 23rd Thursday, February 2023.
After a long day of deliberations and counselling, Lydia agreed to hand over the infant to the children’s office. Baby Mary will be under the care and protection of a church-based children’s organisation (name withheld) in Nakuru. Lydia is also free to visit her baby anytime she wishes and take her once she is financially stable. A4C will periodically visit the said organisation and will ensure to notify Lydia, of the visit – in case she would like to tag along.
Whereas baby Mary’s case against child violence is successful one, the neonatal mortality rate is still high. According to KNBS, Kenya is a youthful nation with 75% of its population comprising youth. Young people between the ages of 15 years and 24 years account for 19% of the population, whereas those below 15 years account for 40% of the population. Contrary, UNICEF reports that half of the children in Kenya continue to experience violence, with those from underprivileged families being at a greater risk. The community is thus in dire need of creative and sustainable social-based solutions.
Author: Kenneth Kamau is the Founder and CEO of Art for Children Foundation (A4C)