Victim Rescue and Repatriation.
As the Covid-19 pandemic progressed in the latter half of 2020, we were called to a number of pathetic circumstances where child victims of human trafficking were physically and psychologically abused. Some had run away from where they were taken from distant areas of Kenya to be domestic servants in Nairobi slums. We managed to repatriate a total of 12 children, taking each one to his/her parental home, which for us means we must travel with two people in line with safeguarding regulations to accompany the girl or boy to the parental home – all of the above children were under 13 years old.
A 6 year old Domestic Servant
‘Katasia’ stands out for me more than all the others. She is a little Ugandan girl aged 6 years who was a domestic servant in the (rented) one roomed house of her biological aunt to cater for two boys aged 14 & 16 and a girl aged 13 years. (See photo below) She was taken to Nairobi on the pretext of a good education, but she never saw the inside of any school and was never left with any food for the whole day. One day, she found 50 Kenya Shillings equivalent of 50 cents (in British system) and went out to buy chips for herself. In the evening, she was thoroughly beaten by the aunt (with visible welts even 2 days later), then she boiled water and poured it over the unsuspecting child. The sight of her burns was horrific as you see from the copious bandaging. She was of tender age, away from her parents and country of origin. Some women came around next morning as they had heard a child’s screams, they called us to see a way forward.
The procedure to follow here is that the matter is reported to the Chief and he involves the police. Our facilitator was the first to arrive at the scene, in line with the directions of the Chief (who came himself also to see the child). Immediately, he recommended that she be taken into the care of one of the Community Health Volunteers (CHVs), while we arranged transportation to hospital. Our facilitator and the CHV travelled to the hospital where she was admitted for 5 days. On discharge, we took her to a Safe house for children. It will be difficult to trace her family and the Uganda border is still locked down. We suspect the lady has bribed the police as she should be handed down 8 – 15 years in jail but we keep fighting a losing battle most of the time. Eventually, we will have to take the child with her aunt to the family home in Uganda.
Child trafficking is very rampant in Kenya, it is pathetic and very disturbing to see the cruelty meted out to children of tender years. ‘Katesia’ is a small and very vulnerable child. The teenage sons of her aunt made several attempts to frighten the CHV who housed and attended the child’s needs. Eventually, the Chief had to post a Government soldier on the house of CHV. When the little girl was discharged the CHV moved out of that area but not before we had found a very nice, child friendly Safe house for ‘Katesia’ Even though the child should be taken from there because it exceeds the 3 month ‘grace’ period that children are kept at that centre but the staff are very understanding of the dilemmas we face. The court case of the aunt who committed this heinous crime is still on-going and yet she is the only one who can find the home place of ‘Katesia’ who is the daughter of her sister.
Note: Names and identities have been changed to protect victim from any harm