Hospital in dilemma as abandoned baby dies two years later

Ian Dancun Mustapher, a charity worker carries Baby Stephen Baraka at his hospital bed at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital. [Photo by Kevine Omollo/Standard]
Stephen Baraka experienced more cruelty in his short life than many adults ever will.

Baraka was born with a deformed face and a cleft palate, which medics at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital believe are what caused his parents to abandon him at the facility on May 12, 2016. He was only six months old.

Baraka did not receive medical treatment because the doctors were on strike. He had to live through yet another harrowing ordeal when nurses also embarked on a long work boycott over salaries.

The boy, who became the face of the health workers' strike, was found in the ward alone. Other patients had been withdrawn by their relatives due to lack of services.

The medics stayed away for 250 days collectively and the hospital remained Baraka's home until he died last week from what doctors said were respiratory complications.

But misfortune has followed the child even in death - there is no one to bury him as no one has come to claim his body.

Corrective surgery

Records show he was admitted to Ward One and was scheduled for corrective surgery. A man and a woman using fake identities got him admitted before sneaking away the same day.

"He was meant to be examined by a consultant a day after he was admitted. But what shocked us was the people said to be his parents had disappeared. The phone numbers they gave were not going through," said Kevin Ooro, a social health worker at the hospital.

The doctors’ report recommended beautification surgery to restore the child's face. However, the procedure could not be done at the hospital.

Managers at the facility tried in vain to trace his parents to facilitate referral to another hospital that could handle his case.

Mr Ooro said their investigations showed Baraka's parents may have come from Luanda in Vihiga County.

Well-wishers are willing to bury the child but the hospital says this would be illegal. The body will remain in the mortuary while the hospital staff try to find the parents.

“We cannot release the body. For all the time the baby has been in the hospital, nobody claimed him. The body will remain in our custody; it belongs to the State,” said Juliana Otieno, the hospital CEO.

baby baraka diesjaramogi oginga odinga teaching and referral hospital