The Mui River Basin in Mwingi Sub County, Kitui County is better known for its unexploited coal deposits. But this fertile basin, like most of the rain-starved Lower Eastern region, abounds in snakes.
The serpents with deadly fangs virtually rule the singed surface where temperatures favour their proliferation.
While natives do not eat them as happens in faraway China, belief has it that ill-intentioned folks use them to kill or maim their brethren. Wait! How is that possible? Father of nine Muasya Manzi says his daughter is a case in point.
“I wish snakes would talk,” muses Mr Manzi. “They would tell you exactly how it happens because the people who do it cannot go public. But I have no doubt in my mind that the snake that bit my daughter, a black mamba was sent by our enemy. It happens a lot here.”
He says he has killed 15 snakes in his bush ringed homestead hugging Mui Shopping Centre in the four years he has lived there, without a single case of snakebite. “How come my daughter was bitten in her sleep in a well-lit, well-plastered room at the shopping centre? I see a person’s hand in it,” he says.
His daughter, mother of four Lena Mwikali was asleep when she was bitten by a snake two years ago. She recounts: “I used to lodge in a room at Mui shopping centre and regularly walked from here after supper to spend the night there. I shared the room with another woman and we slept on a mattress on the floor.”
“We covered ourselves and slept after switching off the light on a fateful night, only to be awakened by sharp pain around 1 am. Something had pricked me on the elbow. I told my roommate to switch on the light upon which we saw a snake lying at the edge of the mattress parallel to the wall. We shouted and people came. They killed the snake and rushed me to a clinic where I was given some injections.”
Lena was the following day rushed to Mwingi where celebrated snakebite therapist Peter Musyoka saved her life with anti-venom neutralisers.
Kathini Mulyungi was not lucky when she was bitten by a black-necked cobra 22 years ago, aged only seven. She lost her right arm. “I was in Class Two at Mwingi Primary School,” she recalls, sadness permeating her face. ”I had just retired to bed that I shared with a niece when I was bitten in the wrist.”
“I have rushed to Mwingi Level Four hospital about four kilometres away, where anti-snakebite serum was out of stock. After first aid, I was put on strong painkillers for three months before I was transferred to the provincial hospital in Embu.
Kathini says her arm had developed gangrene, prompting doctors in Embu to amputate it to save her life. “I remained in hospital for one and a half months as my arm healed. Treatment cost Sh100,000 that my parents paid after selling livestock.”
She returned to school and sat the KCPE in 2005. Now a single mother of one, Kathini did not proceed to secondary school for lack of fees. She owns two donkeys and sells water in Mwingi town for a living. Benedict Kandali Mukengei, 25, was resting under a tree after labouring in the farm when he felt something heavy and cold land on his neck with a thud.
“It was a puff udder that quickly coiled itself around my neck after falling from the tree under which I was resting,” he narrates. Frightened to the bone, Mukengei stood and struggled to uncoil the serpent from his neck.
“I saw and smelt death. I cried loudly as I struggled with the snake that bit me in the back before it fell to the ground and slithered away into the bushes.”
“People from nearby homes who heard my distress call came and gave me raw eggs to swallow before they carried me home because I was feeling dizzy and could not walk.”
Mukengei says Good Samaritans used his phone to call Mr Musyoka who arrived promptly from his clinic in Mwingi, 15km away.
“I was still conscious, thanks to the raw eggs. Musyoka gave me two injections and a glass of water after every 10 minutes. I urinated and started feeling better,” he recounts. Today, Mukengei is a Boda Boda rider in Mwingi town.
Victims of snake bites in Mwingi and other areas within the Lower Eastern region have lost their lives for lack of immediate and appropriate attention.
Kamengele Mueni, a blind grandmother from Muumoni area north of Mwingi went to sleep unaware that a black-necked cobra had taken refuge in her bed, narrates her granddaughter, Roselyn Nduko. She died after she was bitten by the snake.
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