A nursing mother and her month-old baby who spent two nights on cold dormitory floors while under quarantine for flouting anti-Covid-19 rules were released on Friday following public uproar.
Caroline Akumu was released from quarantine along with a four-month pregnant woman in Busia County.
When Ms Akumu left home for Nambale market with her baby on Wednesday, little did she know that she would spent the next two nights on a cold dormitory floor after finding herself on the wrong side of the law.
The sweet potato trader had expected to be back home at her rental house in Nambale township later that evening.
All went well as she attended to customers along the Mumias-Busia road before hell broke loose at around 7:10 pm, she told the Nation on Friday.
She says she had delayed closing down her business and was hurrying home when she was accosted by police officers from Nambale police station, she said.
They arrested her and took her and the one-month-old baby to St Anne’s Kisoko Girls High School where she was put under quarantine in a cold dormitory with no bedding.
Her pleas to the men in uniform landed on deaf ears. They left her and the baby at the school for the rest of the night.
“I pleaded with the officers to pardon me because I have an infant but they defied my pleas and forced me into quarantine. I was tested for Covid-19 before I was put under quarantine at the school. I was told I would stay there for 14 days,” narrated Ms Akumu from her house at Nambale town on Friday when the Nation caught up with her.
She thought by breastfeeding the baby the officers would have mercy but that did not move them either.
“I thought the baby would prove me right in the eyes of the officers but they remained adamant and locked me in a dormitory at the school. The conditions at the centre were deplorable. Furthermore, I didn’t have any bedding, even for my baby and I had to sleep on the floor with my baby,” she said.
At the centre, she would meet another trader, Angeline Namwalo, who is four-months pregnant and who had also been arrested at the market during curfew hours.
The two kept each other company, chatting the whole night and giving themselves hope while shivering in the cold room.
Ms Akumu says her main worry was how to protect the baby from cold and the risk of contracting pneumonia.
She would quickly improvise a carton within the room to serve as bedding for the baby and covered the infant with her headscarf, as they sat helplessly wiling the night away.
“I didn’t manage to catch sleep for the two days I spent at the centre. My baby cried all night long and I am worried that she is sick,” she said after her release.
A photo of her baby sleeping on a carton box went viral on social media, leading to outrage from members of the public.
“It is so inhumane for the officers to have thrown the two women to sleep in the open dormitories alongside a one-month-old baby without anything to cover themselves. Are quarantine centres there to be used to punish citizens?” asked a disturbed John Namwalo.
Nambale Sub-County Police Commander Walter Abonga said the two women were arrested after they defied regulations of the County Government that required traders to stay away from roadsides.
“They resisted moving away from the road after they were instructed by the Sub-County Public Health officer. They even fought and chased away county enforcement officials. That is how the police came intervened and arrested them,” claimed Mr Abonga.
He argued that the woman only brought the infant baby into the centre where she was kept to attract sympathy.
The two women were released on free bond after a multi-agency team in the county pardoned them.