Dumped Babies Are Just The Tip Of The Iceberg
It’s a hot mid-August morning, and Lydia Wambui’s bright green overalls are soaked. She’s standing knee-deep in Nairobi River, using a metal rod to catch rubbish lazily flowing down its murky waters. “Sewage, bottle-tops, needles – people chuck everything in here,” she says, wiping sweat off her forehead before adding: “We also keep finding babies.”
In one 350-metre section, nine newborns have been found this year by Wambui’s clean-up team, Komb Green Solutions. After police said the parents could not be identified, the team buried the babies – including two sets of twins – in a makeshift grave.
This week more than 6000 people are in Nairobi for the International Conference on Population and Development, a global summit on sexual and reproductive health. The original event, 25 years ago, kick-started the global movement to recognise reproductive rights as human rights. And today speakers touted huge gains in global access to contraception, health services and a reduction in maternal deaths.
Yet the Nairobi riverbanks tell a story of unfinished business. On Tuesday, the first morning of the summit, the Komb Green Solutions team found their ninth body: a baby boy floating down Nairobi river.
This year, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko asked police chiefs and county officials to investigate the “worrying trend” of bodies found in the river. He has accused hospitals of illegally dumping babies. Yet little has changed, babies are also found tucked into dustbins, dropped down pit latrines or discarded by roadsides.
“If you live in Kenya, you’ll have heard many stories about abandoned babies,” explains Nelly Bosire, a Nairobi-based obstetrician-gynaecologist. “But the problem is bigger than it should be – and bigger than we are talking about.”