Kenya hospital imprisons new mothers with no money

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 27, 2012 at 10:05 am •  Published: December 27, 2012
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She said saw some women tried to flee but they were beaten by the guards and turned back. While her husband worked at a faraway refugee camp, Awuor's 9-year-old daughter took care of her siblings. A friend helped feed them, she said, while the children stayed in the family's 50-square-foot shack, where rent is $18 a month. She says she was released after 20 days after Nairobi's mayor paid her bill. Politicians in Kenya in general are expected to give out money and get a budget to do so.

A second mother named in the lawsuit, Margaret Anyoso, says she was locked up in Pumwani for six days in 2010 because she could not pay her $160 bill. Her pregnancy was complicated by a punctured bladder and heavy bleeding.

"I did not see my child until the sixth day after the surgery. The hospital staff were keeping her away from me and it was only when I caused a scene that they brought her to me," said Anyoso, a vegetable seller and a single mother with five children who makes $5 on a good day.

Anyoso said she didn't have clothes for her child so she wrapped her in a blood-stained blouse. She was released after relatives paid the bill.

One woman says she was detained for nine months and was released only after going on a hunger strike. The Center for Reproductive Rights says other hospitals also detain non-paying patients.

Judy Okal, the acting Africa director for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said her group filed the lawsuit so all Kenyan women, regardless of socio-economic status, are able to receive health care without fear of imprisonment. The hospital, the attorney general, the City Council of Nairobi and two government ministries are named in the suit.

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Associated Press reporter Tom Odula contributed to this report.