Alone and abandoned
Over the course of the last six years, the minors in children’s homes under the care of the Child Welfare Society of Kenya (CWSK) around the country have suffered congestion, lack of proper medical care and experimental treatment procedures that sometimes leave them worse-off.
Investigations by the Sunday Standard and interviews paint a picture of neglect and an abdication of duty by the state agency obligated to look after the less fortunate minors.
Children in the care of these state sponsored homes also suffer mistreatment, poor living conditions and in some instances, periodic abandonment of their education. The Sunday Standard brings you the story of the mess at CWSK and the devastating consequences the mess has had on lives of thousands of children under its care.
“After doing my orientation for one month at Mama Ngina Children’s Home, I was transferred to Waithaka,” a nurse at the CWSK told the Sunday Standard.
Waithaka is where children with special needs are sheltered. The physically challenged, some with bipolar disorders, as well as minors living with HIV. All these in constant need of proper medical care.
“At first I was told not to question anything. Questions would be answered with sackings,” the nurse says.
But in December 2018, pieces of the puzzle that is CWSK couldn’t fit anymore. “At that time we were told to stop taking children for physiotherapy at established hospitals,” the nurse says. It is at the new institution, which we cannot name because investigations by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board are ongoing, where something called ‘Green Therapy’, a mix of Chinese oriental medicine and ‘unproven physiotherapy methods’, were adopted.
“When we started questioning the quantity and quality of the medicine they were prescribing to the children, they just started giving us unpacked tablets. But these kids started reacting to these drugs,” another nurse says. “Every morning we would make a concoction of the tablets in a jug and give the children the drugs in form of a porridge.”
Workers say they couldn’t raise alarm over what they saw.
“We and the other professional consultants we were concerned about the safety of the children, but people feared reporting,” a social worker at one of the shelters said.
At some point, she says, housemothers and nurses were told to stop giving ARVs to children living with HIV and instead give them the African Potato, a plant some people use to make medicine. It is mostly used for urinary tract disorders although there is insufficient research to back its alleged medicinal qualities.
CWSK employees, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, said once the children were received at the health facility, they would be put through a mixed treatment regimen. First, there was acupuncture, deep tissue massage even for children recovering from burns and then put on some sort of vibrator that shook their entire bodies.
“We were told that procedure would heal all diseases the children had,” the nurse says. “Some would be given inner soles with alleged healing powers. Others would be given cards, just as big as ID cards, that would be strung around their necks. The facility’s operators would insist that the cards had healing properties.”
At some point during the sessions, operators at the institution, which the Poisons Board raided on Monday, would take pictures of the children, who are under state protection, telling the accompanying adults they were sending the pictures to the drug manufacturers.
“Children would cry whenever they knew they were being taken there,” another housemother said.
Documents in our possession show that between June 2018 and June 2019, the facility was paid close to Sh22 million for services rendered to children under the care of CWSK.
“I just wish everyone with links to this institution would treat the children as their own. Not subject them to this ‘green therapy.’ How is it that the organisation has no physiotherapists,” the nurse says.
This case is not the only instance when the children have been subjected to alternative forms of treatment.