“Watu nguyas, hii si mara ya kwanza unapata wa-junior wametupwa kwa taka. Hii ni mortuary yao buda, kuweni wapole (People, this is not the first time one finds children (foetuses) disposed in the garbage. This is their mortuary, be easy),” an unmoved street urchin tells the shell-shocked residents of Nyayo Highrise where a mauled foetus was discovered recently.
He added that one would be sure to find at least two disposed foetus on trash day, Thursday. Most of the trash is disposed from the Kibera slums that connects to what were to be the slum upgrading project, Highrise, via a small gate. This scene is just but the end product of a ghetto procured abortion.
According to Mama Akinyi, a salonist in the area, most of the abortions are done in the darkness of the night at a house at the end of the street. She lives, not far from the said house. “Naonanga wasichana wadogo wadogo wakitoka huko, hawatembei vizuri na wengine wanalia (I see young girls leaving that house with an awkward limp and others crying),” she says.
She then refers me to one of the girls, a neighbourhood girl who goes by the name, msichana wa mama Edna.
Msichana wa mama Edna explains that the doctor, who is a rogue clinical officer trying to make extra cash had a crocked wire that had been manipulated to look like a pair of tongs. For disinfection, a little household bleach and soaking in salty water for barely five minutes came in handy.
“Nitamchokoza atoke (I will probe until it comes out),” the ‘doctor’ kept repeating.
“Every time I tried screaming he threatened to leave the work unfinished. ‘I paid Sh300 for the job, and since that was not enough he packed for me my baggage in a paper bag for me to dispose on my own,” recalls wa Edna.
Her friend had it ‘easier’ as she was given syrup to take two tablespoons every six hours and by the next day, her foetus aborted.
Our research revealed that the ‘syrup’ was a quinine-based drug. Quinine is toxic and can induce labour. The dose of this dangerous ‘syrup’ dosage is adjusted according to the gestation period.
Similar cartels operate in local universities, but here abortions are done on appointment basis usually by medicine and nursing students who have had gynaecological rotations in the hospitals while on internship. A fourth year student by the name Muturi is the chief abortionist.
The ‘theatre’ is in the hostel farthest from the administration block and the room farthest from the main entrance where foot traffic is minimal. The abortions are normally carried out on the floor, as it is easier to clean and disinfect after the procedure. The room resident is remunerated for providing the room.
“I would charge Sh2,500 for my room to be used overnight,” says Peter, a third year student who says he stopped renting out the room after a while due to the nauseating stench of the disinfectant.
“The constant use of air fresheners also started causing me respiratory problems,” he adds.
Just like in the ghetto, the procedures are carried out at night or in the mornings when most people are in class. Prior appointment, sometimes as long as two weeks, is necessary to allow time for the equipment to be sneaked out of the hospital.
“One could only transport one equipment at a time from the hospital to avoid raising suspicion; a kidney dish here, scissors, antibiotics and painkillers, disinfectant somewhere and so on,” says Magda a fourth year nursing student and girlfriend to Muturi.
The clients are sourced through an intricate referral system that comprises ‘scanners’- agents who source for the potential clients by scanning their gynaecological history before linking them to Muturi.
“I decided to go with Muturi, for he was known to procure safe and confidential abortions. I have never heard of patients die in his hands. I am not even sure that Muturi was his name; I actually never met him until the day of the abortion. Even the Sh9000 expense, which my sugar daddy paid for was taken by one of those scanners. That is how discrete he was,’ says Christine an alumnus of a local university who was a first year student at the time of the abortion.
The same gruesomeness is visited on those who visit backstreet hospitals.
“I could hear the conductor shout ‘Mombasa Road hamsini’ from downstairs as I lay on the delivery couch, my legs hoisted on the metallic stands and spread out,” says Janet who swears she will never have an abortion again.
“I was not sure what smell was more nauseating; the disinfectant’s or the frothy one from the bars below. Then there was the urine smell from the sink adjacent that did not make the situation any easier,” she painfully recalls..
The only ‘consolation’ that kept her from throwing up was knowing that the urine was from her system as she had just been given a plastic cooking fat container to relieve herself, which was emptied into the sink.
These thoughts were interrupted when she felt something cold.
“As if sensing my fear, he reassured me. The next thing I remember was being handed painkillers, antibiotics and a sanitary towel with instructions to take the medicines only when I feel pain,” she says.
When she noticed that she was letting blood, she tried contacting the doctor.
“He shooed me away saying that if I followed his instruction to the letter I would be fine,” she says.