Baby born without eyes dies after mother refuses to feed her

Monday August 28 2017

Mariam Mwakombo, the mother to the baby girl born with facial deformities talking to Nation on August 27, 2017 at her rural home in Mreroni, Jomvu Constituency. The baby has died after the mother failed to breastfeed her. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Mariam Mwakombo, the mother to the baby girl born with facial deformities talking to Nation on August 27, 2017 at her rural home in Mreroni, Jomvu Constituency. The baby has died after the mother failed to breastfeed her. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By WINNIE ATIENO
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The baby girl who was born in Mombasa without eyes and had deformed nostrils has died.

According to the family, the baby cried for hours due to hunger and later died at night.

The mother, Ms Mariam Mwakombo 22, refused to breastfeed the newborn due to her condition.

Hassan Dzuya, Ms Mwakombo's uncle, said the baby had not been fed on anything since she was born Sunday morning.

Mr Dzuya said the baby was buried in accordance with Mijikenda traditions.

"We buried her outside our home to ward off bad omen associated with such kind of a child," he said.

AFRAID

The mother said she was afraid of her baby girl.

“She frightened me. I have never seen such a human being,” she told Nation.

After she was born, the child stayed for 10 hours without breast milk.

She was born prematurely at seven months.

Ms Mwakombo's husband, Hassan Kitoto, said he could not comprehend why God gave him such a child.

“I am equally scared. I have never seen such a human being. Whatever the elders will decide let it be,” he said.

ANTENATAL CARE

Ms Mwakombo had only attended two antenatal care clinics at a public hospital in Kilifi.

“Hospitals are very far and I couldn’t afford the clinic at private hospitals. I used traditional methods,” she said.

She gave birth to the girl at home after she was turned away in different public hospitals in Mombasa and Kilifi counties due to the ongoing nurse’s strike that has paralysed health services.

“My water broke while I was doing my chores and she just came out. She’s seven months old. I never felt any pains during her birth. But on looking at her we realised she did not have eyes. I was dumb founded,” said the mother.

TRADITIONS

They rushed her to Port Reitz district hospital but they were referred to the largest hospital in the region, Coast Provincial General due to nurse’s strike that has paralysed health services in public hospitals.

Ms Mwakombo said they did not have the means to go to CPGH so they went home and decided to deal with the baby according to their traditions.

Villagers including religious leaders trickled in the humble homestead to glare at the baby whose condition caused shock, pain, shame and anguish to the family.

The villagers and family members wanted to throw the baby in a dungeon to let the ‘gods’ take care of the child.

“The best we can do is throw her in a dungeon in a forest. I did not name her,” the mother said, adding that she could not breastfeed the baby "lest the omen falls on me".

UNFORTUNATE

Some doctors suspect the child was born with a condition known as anophthalmia.

It is a condition in which one or both eyes do not form during pregnancy.

When both eyes are affected, blindness results.

Dr Ibrahim Matende, the president of the College of Ophthalmology of Eastern, Central and Southern Africa (COECSA) said the condition is rare.

“The child needed to undergo a medical examination to determine the condition. Sometimes they are able to see," he said.

The eye specialist also noted that the situation was unfortunate but not a bad omen, adding that the baby's family needs counselling.

ANOPHTHALMIA

According to the American Foundation for the Blind, anophthalmia may be diagnosed during a pre-natal ultrasound.

Alternatively, it is diagnosed soon after birth when parents and paediatricians notice the lack of eye tissue, essentially non-existent eyeballs.

An MRI can confirm the diagnosis.

There is no cure for anophthalmia, however, “conformers” (clear, plastic shapers) are recommended to be placed inside the eye socket(s) to promote proper growth and development of the eye socket and facial bones, as well as to serve cosmetic purposes.

The conformers are changed to a larger size every few weeks during the first two years of the child’s life, encouraging growth of the eye socket alongside rapid facial growth.

At approximately age two, prosthetic eyes (painted artificial eyes) can be inserted (and changed far less frequently).