A 26-year-old woman died of hunger on June 3, three days after giving birth to twin daughters.
Ngina Wambua had struggled through nine months of pregnancy as food at her home in Kwa Ndeke village in Yatta district became increasingly hard to come by.
One meal a day
According to her family, Mrs Wambua had been surviving on one meal a day – a plate of salted boiled maize meal – and that was if there was any. The week before she gave birth, she had had only two meals.
Because there was no money to take her to hospital, she delivered her twins at home. Her mother-in-law, Mrs Rebecca Kitumbo, 59, said Mrs Wambua delivered with the help of traditional midwives.
After delivery, Mrs Wambua’s family, according to her mother-in-law and her husband James Wambua Kitumbo, ran short of food. Mrs Wambua survived on water, despite the fact that she was breast-feeding her new-born twins.
“It was bad for her, especially after delivering the two children, Twili and Mbatha, at home. She kept complaining that she was hungry, but we had no food to give her. We thought that she would endure just like the rest of us, but she lost the battle on Wednesday, June 3,” said Mrs Kitumbo.
“She gave birth at a time when food was scarce in the family. On the day she died, I had gone out to look for some casual job to try and raise money for food but, on coming back, I received the sad news,” Mr Wambua said. She was buried last Monday.
When the Sunday Nation visited the home last Thursday, the reality of the hunger situation forced us to postpone our interview to rush to a trading centre where we bought some food for the family that had gone for two days without meals. Like their neighbours, they have been surviving on raw guavas.
“We survive on one meal per day at night when food is available. It is normally a meal of boiled maize. If it is not there, we just sleep hungry,” Mrs Kitumbo said.
As for the new-born twins, their grandmother can only afford to feed them on glucose mixed with water.
“For the moment this is the best that I can give to my grandchildren. What else can I do? If I were able, I would buy them milk, but I don’t have money. My two cows are sickly and dying because there is no vegetation for them to feed on. Life is just difficult,” said the elderly woman, her eyes fixed on the sky.
After a while, she added: “I don’t know what to do with the small children. I am afraid we may lose them too.”
Pastor Nicholas Muia of the Living Water Ministry in the village said there was little that neighbours could do as nearly all of them faced the same situation.
He said that in addition to lack of food, poverty has forced some children out of school. One of Mrs Wambua’s five children, Nthenya, was sent home last year for failing to pay the Sh500 fees perm at Mathingi Nursery and Primary School.
However, young Nthenya received a reprieve during our visit as one of our guides, Councillor Gregory Mweu Mwenze, volunteered to pay her fees to enable her to complete nursery school as she prepares to join Standard One next year.
Another of Mrs Wambua’s daughters, Mukava, aged nine, is staying with a relative in Kitui to escape the biting hunger at home.
Lucky Wambua, aged two, stays at home with his twin sisters though, on the day of our visit, all he did was sleep and cry, too hungry to play with the other children.