The three-week-old baby lies in the hospital bed, her tiny frame covered with a pink bed sheet.
Save for the slight movement of her chest, she looks lifeless.
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The baby, now named Grace Ajwang’ by wellwishers, was orphaned last week after her impoverished and ailing mother died, apparently due to lack of medical attention.
Pamela Achieng’, a young widow, became the latest victim of the ongoing nurses’ strike in public health facilities.
Achieng’ was said to have returned home to die in her derelict, one-room house at Manyatta slums after she was allegedly turned away at both the Kisumu County Hospital and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH) because there was no nurse to attend to her.
Her house was in a mess, indicating that Pamela, whose husband died in March this year, may have struggled a great deal before succumbing to her illness.
“She came to live here on the eve of the August 8 elections. She was very sick and we took her to the Kisumu County Hospital, where we were turned away at the gate. We met the same problem at Russia (JOOTRH),” said Kevin Dacho, a neighbour.
He added: “We brought her back home because we planned to contact a local community health worker the following morning but she died early on Thursday morning before the health worker arrived. A neighbour went to the house and took away the crying baby. It was an emotional scene.”
His story is corroborated by another neighbour, Elizabeth Njoga, who said Achieng’ lived a deplorable life after her husband died.
“They used to live here before but she left with her husband. After his death, she returned here with the baby and entered one of the empty houses even without informing the landlord. No one here seemed to know her well. We only know that she comes from Ombeyi in Kano and her husband hailed from Alego in Siaya County.
Attempts to take the child to a local orphanage failed because the administrators said she looked too frail to be admitted.
The next destination was Kondele Police Station, where concerned officers advised the neighbours to take the baby to hospital as they went for Achieng’s body.
But there was another problem.
There were no nurses on duty and admission was off the cards.
Hellen Staula, a children’s rights activist, said they took the baby to the children’s ward at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching Hospital after speaking to the hospital’s CEO, Dr Juliana Otieno.
“Dr Otieno directed that the baby be admitted even though there were no nurses on duty. The doctors have done a wonderful job and the baby is now improving,” said Ms Staula who is also a paralegal officer.
The impact of the nurses’ strike was evident at the hospital.
At the children’s ward where baby Grace is admitted, beds were empty, save for another baby who was on oxygen. The hospital usually teems with patients, with some even sharing beds.
By Monday, some wellwishers were planning to transfer the baby to a private hospital.
Staula said she was working with the social workers at the hospital and wellwishers to trace Achieng’s relatives.