More than two weeks after an infant was stolen from a maternity ward, a young mother is still clinging to hope that the baby will be found.
Clare Ngala gave birth through caesarean section at the Busia County Referral Hospital on July 29. Two days later, a former primary schoolmate visited the 20-year-old mother.
The two women chatted for a while before Ms Ngala left the infant with her friend and stepped out to wash clothes.
“We had not met for many years. It was just by coincidence to meet in the hospital and because I knew her, I left the baby with her as I went to do laundry outside,” Ngala said.
“When I came back, she was missing with the baby. I do not know where she lives and I cannot recall her name.”
Despite the fact that police have yet to make any arrests, Ngala expressed optimism that the baby would be found alive and well.
“It has been hard to come to terms with the fact that after nine months of pregnancy and enduring the pain of a caesarean section, someone can decide to steal my child,” she said.
The hospital administration said there were inconsistencies in Ngala’s story that could only be addressed by police.
Medical Superintendent David Mukabi asked why she could not remember her schoolmate’s name. “The thing we have failed to understand is why the mother went to wash clothes two days after delivering through a C-section while her friend remained in the ward with the baby.”
Dr Mukabi said nurses in the ward saw Ngala and her friend seated on the bed and the two looked happy.
“The mother of the baby went to wash clothes around 10am but it was not until 1.30pm, when her mother came to visit her, that the alarm was raised.
“Ngala told her mother that the child was outside with her friend and they started looking around the hospital.”
The doctor said that five days after the baby went missing, a woman was detained after she offered to carry a new mother’s baby.
“Because patients in the ward were aware of what had happened and police were in the hospital, she was arrested and interrogated but she was later released,” said Mukabi.
The incident has exposed security flaws at the referral hospital with some residents now petitioning for the installation of surveillance cameras.
“This is a wake-up call for the county government and it is time it installed CCTV in the hospital. The suspect would have been identified,” said Peter Wangila.
Busia OCPD Makau Masai said the incident was being investigated.
“We have gone to Butula and a place in Mayenje, where Ngala suspected the person she said stole her baby came from,” said Mr Masai.
The police boss dismissed claims that three babies were stolen from the referral hospital that day.
“Only one case has been brought to our attention, not three, as some people are saying,” said Masai.