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Nothing to see in lone village where nearly everyone is blind

Brothers, from left, Kennedy Wanjala Milton Wafula and Ben Nyongesa. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

Bisunu in Sirisia constituency is not your ordinary village. Tucked deep inside the heart of Bungoma County, the village has almost 27 homesteads scattered in the hilly area.

However, Bisunu has one other bizarre element, almost every household has a blind person or someone living with a physical deformity. 

“Some were born with hearing impairment problems, mental ailments with some children being born without hands and legs,” said Fred Mwenda Kasimoto, a former convict who is now a clergy in the area.

He went on: “There is no safe and clean drinking water in this village. Over 85 per cent of the locals have not gone to school and due to poverty, the school-going children are malnourished and do not go to school. You can’t miss a blind person in each of the homesteads in this village,”

Kasimoto told The Standard that there are at most 27 homesteads that have people suffering from different deformities, saying 15 of the homesteads have people who are totally blind.

Agnes Nasipwondi, 66, who is our host welcomes us to her single-roomed grass-thatched house.

After three minutes, locals come running and gather around the house but she tells us not to worry since her neighbours are just looking for food in case we had some to share with them.

For Nasipwondi, she has seen it all ever since she got married to the late husband Moses Naikopo who had three wives with over 15 children.

She got married to Naikopo over four decades ago and together they were blessed with eight children, four sons and four daughters though one of the daughters is deceased.

“I gave birth to a healthy bouncing baby boy, Kennedy Wanjala in 1976 but after three days, I realised that he had sleepy eyes and had poor eyesight. I went to then Sirisia District hospital and we have admitted for three days and the doctors carried out many tests on him,” said Nasipwondi.

She went on: “After diagnosis, the doctors told me that my son had lost his eyesight and that no doctor in the world could restore his eyesight.  His left ear had also malfunctioned and could not hear well,”

Agnes Nasipwondi. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

According to Nasipwondi, together with her husband, they took the baby to Sabatia Eye hospital in Vihiga and Tororo Eye hospital in Uganda.

They also used traditional medicine in a bid to restore the eyesight of their child but their efforts didn’t bore any fruits.

Again in 1981, she became pregnant and gave birth to another bouncing baby boy, Ben Nyongesa but after three days, his eyes had similar symptoms that were exhibited by his first-born son.

The sexagenarian said that they rushed him to Sirisia hospital and again after diagnosis, the doctors told her that his second-born son was also blind.

“This was the lowest point of my life. My husband almost kicked me out of the matrimonial home by accusing me that I had brought a bad omen to the family since I was giving birth to blind children,” said Nasipwondi.

In 1990, Nasipwondi gave birth to another son, Milton Wafula, who also turned blind after three days besides being blind, he has a hearing impairment problem.

One has to shout in order for Mr Wafula to hear what you are saying whereas for Mr Wanjala and Mr Nyongesa, besides being blind, they have a mental disorder. Only one of her four sons is of sound mind and not suffering from any ailment. 

On the flipside, all her four daughters did not turn blind but the children they gave birth to in their matrimonial home upon getting married, some of them are blind, especially their firstborns.

“My four daughters were not born with blindness but when two of them got married, all the male children they sired in their matrimonial homes, turned blind after three days and exhibited the same symptoms my three sons exhibited before they turned blind,” said Nasipwondi.

The sexagenarian said that two of her four daughters have since been divorced by their husbands after giving birth to blind boys.

She said they were accused of witchcraft before being excommunicated from their matrimonial homes by their husbands.

Agnes Nasipwondi's grandson is blind. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

Nasipwondi said even their in-laws accused them of being a bad omen to their respective families and that a bigger calamity was likely to befall them unless they are sent away together with the children had given birth to and were blind.

“My daughters were ex-communicated together with my grandsons who are blind aged 12 and 5 years old. I am now taking care of my three sons and two grandsons who are all blind,” said Nasipwondi.

She went on: “One of my daughters who was divorced by the husband vowed never to get married again and that she was not ready to give birth to any child due to the stigma she went through. She went for a permanent family planning method and relocated to Nairobi,”

One of the grandsons, Hillary, 12, is a pupil at Lutaso primary school and is very bright. He avers that his main challenge is getting food to eat, adding that they can go up to three days without eating anything.

“I wanted to be a doctor but have resorted to becoming a lawyer in future. For this dream to be actualised, I would wish to be taken to a special national school for the bind, where I school (Lutaso primary), am the only one who is blind,” said Hillary.

He also wants to be helped with a brail book, a slate and a stylus.

Investigations by The Standard further established that one of Nasipwondi’s younger sisters gave birth to four sons who also turned blind on the third day after they were born whereas their lastborn sister has a son who is blind.

Nasipwondi’s on, Milton Wafula alias Maguire is a P1 teacher who graduated from Mosoriot Teachers Training Certificate.

He is the only one who managed to get formal education after getting sponsorship from a missionary.

A stone's throw away from their home, Milton fell in love with Pamela Nekesa, who is also blind and from their relationship, they sired a baby girl, who also turned blind just days after being born.

Nekesa and her daughter are being taken care of by her father who is disabled and currently suffering from Parkinson's disease, a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement and often includes tremors.

“I love my daughter and I wish I could have eyes to see and give her the motherly love she deserves to get from me,” Ms Nekesa said when the Standard team paid visit to her.

She says that she fell in love with Milton since everyone in the society had rejected her and he was the only man who could take care of her emotional feelings.

For Milton, his wish is for the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to give him a job so that he can get money to fend for the child, wife and his mother Nasipwondi.

For Betty Jeruto, 32, she gave birth to her first-born son without both hands. Her son is now five years old and schools at Lutaso Primary School within the village.

Benbella Oyala with Betty Jeruto's son. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

“My son uses his legs to write and has got good handwriting. He also plays football when in school and at home and this gives me hope that he got a bright future. I will continue taking good care of him until he achieves his dreams when he grows up,” said Jeruto.

Linet Kangalika, an optical specialist, from the Sabatia Eye Hospital, said they did a medical camp in the village and discovered that the blindness is caused by genetics and therefore hereditary, saying some became blind as a result of the drugs their mothers took when pregnant.

Benbella Oyalo, from the Jesus Freedom Ministry, from a local church that has been trying to help the affected families in the area.

He said that the village has many special needy cases that need urgent attention from both the government and well-wishers.

“These people need basic needs like food, clothing and shelter. We also need medical experts to camp in this village, carry out thorough research and come out with a long-lasting solution geared towards helping the community in the area rise again,” said Mr Oyalo.