Aga Khan offers free plastic surgery for burn survivors

Saturday February 17 2018
Burn survivor

Dr Abdi Hakim examines Ms Marygoretti Saumu who suffered burns in 2016, in this photo taken on February 17, 2018. The Aga Khan Hospital in Mombasa is offering free reconstructive surgery for burn victims. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Aga Khan Hospital in Mombasa planned to conduct its first free reconstructive surgeries for fire accident survivors in the country.

Patients suffering from accidental burns and domestic violence injuries were offered the free surgery.


There is no plastic surgeon in the whole of the Coast region. Patients in need of such medical attention have to travel to Kenyatta National Hospital for the procedure.

Speaking on Saturday during the free screening camp, head of outreach services, Dr Sultana Sherman, said women and girls with deformities from fire accidents and domestic violence would undergo a reconstructive surgery between March 30 and April 12.

“Women in Africa play a strategic role in providing for their family. With such deformities it is difficult for them to work and take care of the children. By correcting these deformities we want to change their lives. For the children we want to enable them grow up having confidence,” said Dr Sherman.


This is the first reconstructive operation for burn victims at the Coast.


The surgery will be conducted by seven specialist plastic surgeons from the US and Canada and doctors from Aga Khan Hospital.

“World plastics surgeons will be in Kenya to help women and girls. Ninety-nine women were screened, a girl and three very young boys out of which 48 were eligible for the reconstructive surgery meaning they are in dire need of the medical procedure,” said  Dr Abdi Hakim, head of surgery at the Aga Khan Hospital in Mombasa.

“We always have free cancer, diabetes among other medical camps. But we have never had one for fire or domestic violence victims. This is the first and it is free, it’s the biggest ever. The specialists are from an organisation called Reconstructing Women International.

“They are the top in the world in this kind of surgery. It was successful in Tanzania and they decided to come to Kenya to give women hope.”

Dr Hakim said patients have never accessed such treatment at the Coast.  

Some 120 women and girls turned up for the free screening. They came from Kisii, Kisumu, Kwale, Meru, Nakuru, Nairobi, Mombasa, Taita-Taveta and Uasin Gishu counties for the one-day free screening camp.


Two years ago, Marygoretti Saumu, 32, was burned while cooking with a stove.

The accident was devastating and she was rushed to Port Reitz Hospital in Mombasa for first aid.

At the time of the accident in September 2016, Ms Saumu, a businesswoman, was living in Migadini, Mombasa County, but she was later forced to go back home to Voi in Taita-Taveta County.

Her mother Susan Nekesa nursed her after being transferred to Voi Hospital.

The wounds on her neck, arm and chest left permanent scars. She has been unable to stretch her arms or twist her neck.


Ms Saumu said that after recuperating, she has had difficulty in finding a job because people think she would not perform well.

Despite her condition, she can perform normal house chores but cannot carry heavy luggage.

“Sometimes I sit and cry when someone turns down my job application and I attribute it to the effects of the burns. I miss the old days when I could work with my colleagues and be able to provide basic needs to my three children,” said Ms Saumu.


Her mother said she had spent more than Sh250,000 on Ms Saumu’s treatment.

“My daughter’s pain has taught me to be patient. I take care of her and the children, provide all the basic needs and education for the young ones,” said Ms Nekesa.

Clinical officer Ms Laura Mwaleka is another fire accident survivor.

Five months ago, she was involved in a fire accident at her church together with her husband, sustaining burns on her chest, right arm and neck.

Ms Mwaleka said she was unable to do house chores and this had affected her social, economic and mental health.

More than Sh1 million has been spent on her treatment, she said.


“This condition has grounded me at my house. I can’t go to work. I also miss playing freely with my children, working out, wearing the clothes I was used to. Sometimes I walk on the streets and people are gazing at me sorrowfully and I hate it,” said Ms Mwaleka.

However, thanks to Aga Khan Hospital, Ms Saumu and Ms Mwaleka now hope to regain their normal life after the surgery.

“We have faith that all will be well,” they said.