For Josephine Wacera, 42, raising 12 children single-handedly has been her daily headache.
Being a single mother, putting food on the table for her large family during the coronavirus pandemic has been hell on earth. The virus has come with additional challenges. Jobs have become scarce.
On a lucky day, she gets a menial jobs in quarries where she crushes ballast.
But when night falls, the family scrambles for any available space to stretch their tired limbs in their two tiny mud walled rooms at Bahati, Nakuru County.
The malnourished children sleep on the cold earth floor with nothing to cover their weak bodies as the biting cold passing through falling mud blocks turns their bodies into ice cold.
Not even the whizzing mosquitoes biting them can keep them awake. Theirs is a story of despair as they struggle to survive.
Their kitchen is often empty save for dirty plastic plates scattered on the dusty floor.
“We haven’t eaten anything for almost two days, apart from a piece of bread that was given to us by Good Samaritan,” said Ruth Muthoni, 16, who is Class 8 pupil.
She added: “Our house is leaking, we have no water tank and I urge well-wishers to come to our aid.”
Mercy Wangare, 15, said lack of bedding is so stressful.
“It has not been easy pushing and pulling for the tattered bedding with our little sisters and brothers at night,” she said.
Ms Wacera lost her job as a barmaid in Solai after her employer closed down the outlet due to Covid-19.
“Since the beginning of this year, I was able to survive on a small salary as a barmaid and I managed to put up this mud house from my Sh18,000 savings. Since the pandemic outbreak, I’m hardly able to feed my children,” said Ms Wacera
“Getting water is a major problem. I use the little money I get to buy water to cook and wash my children’s hands before eating. Their clothes are washed after a week,” she added.
Of the 12 children aged between five and 17, six are her biological children.
The others belong to a relative who was arrested for allegedly defiling and impregnating one of his daughters.
“The girl who was defiled by his father got pregnant and gave birth but I could not afford to feed her and her baby, so I took her to a children’s home in Nakuru town,” she told Nation.
“I have tried crushing ballasts but owing to Covid-19, there is little construction work going on,” she added.
“Two of my other children who are in Form One and Two also work in quarries to supplement my meagre income,” she said.
“The effects of this pandemic are weighing me down. When I look at these 12 children, tears swell on my eyes and my heart aches,” she said.
CRY AT NIGHT
For the first time, Ms Wacera revealed before her children that she worked as a barmaid.
“I have never revealed to my children where I work. They know my work is to wash clothes. It’s bad to tell your children you work as a barmaid but today let them know because I’m stretched to the limit,” said Ms Wacera.
“I starve with these children for days because I have nothing to feed them and at one time I had planned to kill them and then commit suicide,” she revealed.
She added: “Sometimes I cry at night about our situation, I can hardly sleep when I hear my children crying due to hunger.”
But that is not her only misery. The two acres’ family land is full of disputes. She is only allowed to cultivate around her mud house.