Kakuma News Reflector – A Refugee Free Press

Refugee Children Face Unknown Developmental Disorders

Posted in Health by KANERE on May 12, 2009

Volume 1, Issue 4-5 / March-April 2009

For children living with unknown developmental disorders in Kakuma Camp, the medical situation is unpromising and the future profoundly uncertain.

Many families in the Kakuma Refugee Camp struggle to nurture their children living with developmental disorders. In the face of severe challenges, they do not know where to go for help. They have tried to seek help in the local hospital and clinics, where treatment possibilities have already been exhausted or are simply unavailable.

KANERE investigates several cases of children living with unknown developmental disorders in the camp.

* * * * *

Abdi* is four years old and was born in Nairobi. He first began to develop problems after he was mistakenly hit by a table. Since then, things have not been well for the boy or his family.

“I have been taking the boy to the main hospital for check-ups and I’m only given some tablets for him,” cries his mother, a Somali refugee who sought anonymity.

The young boy is four years old and cannot utter a word. “The doctor at clinic one told me to keep on checking whether my son’s name will be short-listed for those who will be taken to Nairobi for check-up. My son needs to be scanned in his head,” says his mother.

Abdi’s mother says that she will give up hope for her son’s treatment if this year goes by without receiving treatment in Nairobi. “I have no money to take my boy to a good hospital. I have to rely on the local IRC Hospital, but they are delaying to take a step forward and I’m losing patience,” she says.

Her husband has no job and she has four children. One of her children has passed away. “I think the services at the camp hospital are not all that good. My son has an eye problem and I’ve taken him to the hospital several times and no remedy for his eye problem has been reached. The hospital lacks some facilities and equipment for checking such problems like eyes and scanning heads,” complained Abdi’s mother.

The boy was once taken to JRS (Jesuit Refugee Services) but could not stay there without seeing members of his family, and so he cried so much that they opted to let him stay at home.

* * * * *

Aden* is six-years old and has never walked in his life. He was born normal but began developing problems after one month of age. His parents took him to the IRC Main Hospital to seek a medical check-up. At the hospital they were told that the boy was suffering from allergies to some food like milk and flour.

UNHCR helped the family to take the child to a better-equipped hospital in down-country Kenya. “He keeps on having diarrhea continuously, and that is why we have to keep in tying pads and nappies round him every day. The doctor advised us to give him foods rich in protein like fish, eggs, and meat, but can we afford it? We can’t,” declared Aden’s mother.

According to Aden’s parents, the IRC Main Hospital has been unable to administer proper treatment to their son. Consequently, the parents have given up on seeking treatment for their son. The boy has undergone four operations in Nairobi.

“Sometimes our son suffers from high fevers. He is very thin and weak, unlike earlier when he was very healthy and good looking. He also eats what the other family members are eating since we don’t have money to buy him a special diet,” laments his angry mother.

The boy has not been taken to JRS because IRC has not issued an approval document for the boy to receive care from JRS.

* * * * *

Solomon,* aged 12 years, has never spoken a word since the day he was born. He suffers from some sort of mental disorder but his family does not know what it is. His parents were told in Nairobi that he has a problem in his chest which is the source of his problem. His nose is perpetually running causing open sores on his face. He has a problem with his legs and he cannot walk by himself without support.

“He left Kakuma last year by himself and went up to Nairobi by Daya Bus. We looked for him everywhere but we could not find him. On reaching Nairobi, since he did not know anyone there and with his mental incapacity, he started roaming alone in Nairobi. It is then that he was knocked down by a speeding vehicle and his legs were broken,” recounts his mother.

Somolon was rushed to Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi where, by coincidence, a refugee from Kakuma had brought her child to the same hospital. She identified the boy and immediately called his parents to inform them that their son was in Nairobi in critical condition. His father traveled to Nairobi where he found his son admitted.

The bill for the hospital was paid by well wishers among the family’s Muslim community. “I didn’t seek any help from UNHCR because I didn’t know where exactly to start from. Again, I fear entering into those UN compounds,” explained Solomon’s father.

“As for the mental problem, I took him to the Main Hospital several times but at long last the hospital told me that they could not handle the situation,” explained his mother. Solomon can bathe alone but cannot go to the latrine without assistance. The family has designed a special chair so that the boy can sit over the latrine.

The family was never able to discover the driver of hit-and-run accident which left Solomon crippled. They were told that the driver was arrested later, but could not obtain any information on where he was located or whether they could be compensated. The family says have chosen to forget all about the accident.

* * * * *

Salina* was born in 2005. She was born healthy and developed normally until reaching the age of one year. At this point, her family realized that she had a developmental problem and she was taken to the IRC Main Hospital in the camp. “At the hospital we were told that she was suffering from malnutrition,” explains one of her brothers.

Her legs and hands were paralyzed and she could not stand up on her feet. Saliva continually flowed from her mouth. “We took her to several hospitals in down-Kenya including Nairobi Hospital, Kijabe, and Kikuyu Mission Hospital. Even there we were told that the girl was suffering from malnutrition,” says one of her sisters.

UNHCR and IOM [International Organization for Migration] took care of the hospital bill and other expenses. Salina was admitted for one week during each trip for treatment to Nairobi. Her family traveled by road to reach hospitals down-country.

“The problem was so serious from January of this year. We lost her on 27th February. We held a small burial ceremony on the same day as is our religion,” says her brother.

Salina’s mother has borne ten children, four of whom have died, leaving her with six children. All of her children who died were breastfed, and she thinks that the problem may emanate from her milk since those who were not breastfed are all alive. She has been married twice.

* * * * *

These children and their families face profound uncertainties. What ailment does their child suffer from? They are sometimes given conflicting diagnoses or none at all. Could their child ever be cured? Parents say they are tormented by the possibility that their child could develop normally with access to more advanced medical care—yet they are unable to provide their children with this care.

The clinical officer for IRC (International Rescue Committee), Eric, says that the medical outlook for such children is often ambiguous. “Those children with congenital mental problems cannot get well even if they are taken to the highest and best hospital. For those whose problems developed after they were born, they can get well but funding also matters. Even if they were living in urban areas where they could get access to better care, the issue of money will matter and it will be expensive.”

On contacting the JRS Mental Health Programme on 12th March, the response was that officials could not give out information to the press until contacting their manager for permission. When the manager returned, she was reached for comment but was very busy and could not speak to KANERE.

Many families in the Kakuma Refugee Camp struggle to nurture their children living with developmental disorders. In the face of severe challenges, they do not know where to go for help. They have tried to seek help in the local hospital and clinics, where treatment possibilities have already been exhausted or are simply unavailable.

KANERE investigates several cases of children living with unknown developmental disorders in the camp.

* * * * *

Abdi* is four years old and was born in Nairobi. He first began to develop problems after he was mistakenly hit by a table. Since then, things have not been well for the boy or his family.

“I have been taking the boy to the main hospital for check-ups and I’m only given some tablets for him,” cries his mother, a Somali refugee who sought anonymity.

The young boy is four years old and cannot utter a word. “The doctor at clinic one told me to keep on checking whether my son’s name will be short-listed for those who will be taken to Nairobi for check-up. My son needs to be scanned in his head,” says his mother.

Abdi’s mother says that she will give up hope for her son’s treatment if this year goes by without receiving treatment in Nairobi. “I have no money to take my boy to a good hospital. I have to rely on the local IRC Hospital, but they are delaying to take a step forward and I’m losing patience,” she says.

Her husband has no job and she has four children. One of her children has passed away. “I think the services at the camp hospital are not all that good. My son has an eye problem and I’ve taken him to the hospital several times and no remedy for his eye problem has been reached. The hospital lacks some facilities and equipment for checking such problems like eyes and scanning heads,” complained Abdi’s mother.

The boy was once taken to JRS (Jesuit Refugee Services) but could not stay there without seeing members of his family, and so he cried so much that they opted to let him stay at home.

* * * * *

Aden* is six-years old and has never walked in his life. He was born normal but began developing problems after one month of age. His parents took him to the IRC Main Hospital to seek a medical check-up. At the hospital they were told that the boy was suffering from allergies to some food like milk and flour.

UNHCR helped the family to take the child to a better-equipped hospital in down-country Kenya. “He keeps on having diarrhea continuously, and that is why we have to keep in tying pads and nappies round him every day. The doctor advised us to give him foods rich in protein like fish, eggs, and meat, but can we afford it? We can’t,” declared Aden’s mother.

According to Aden’s parents, the IRC Main Hospital has been unable to administer proper treatment to their son. Consequently, the parents have given up on seeking treatment for their son. The boy has undergone four operations in Nairobi.

“Sometimes our son suffers from high fevers. He is very thin and weak, unlike earlier when he was very healthy and good looking. He also eats what the other family members are eating since we don’t have money to buy him a special diet,” laments his angry mother.

The boy has not been taken to JRS because IRC has not issued an approval document for the boy to receive care from JRS.

* * * * *

Solomon,* aged 12 years, has never spoken a word since the day he was born. He suffers from some sort of mental disorder but his family does not know what it is. His parents were told in Nairobi that he has a problem in his chest which is the source of his problem. His nose is perpetually running causing open sores on his face. He has a problem with his legs and he cannot walk by himself without support.

“He left Kakuma last year by himself and went up to Nairobi by Daya Bus. We looked for him everywhere but we could not find him. On reaching Nairobi, since he did not know anyone there and with his mental incapacity, he started roaming alone in Nairobi. It is then that he was knocked down by a speeding vehicle and his legs were broken,” recounts his mother.

Somolon was rushed to Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi where, by coincidence, a refugee from Kakuma had brought her child to the same hospital. She identified the boy and immediately called his parents to inform them that their son was in Nairobi in critical condition. His father traveled to Nairobi where he found his son admitted.

The bill for the hospital was paid by well wishers among the family’s Muslim community. “I didn’t seek any help from UNHCR because I didn’t know where exactly to start from. Again, I fear entering into those UN compounds,” explained Solomon’s father.

“As for the mental problem, I took him to the Main Hospital several times but at long last the hospital told me that they could not handle the situation,” explained his mother. Solomon can bathe alone but cannot go to the latrine without assistance. The family has designed a special chair so that the boy can sit over the latrine.

The family was never able to discover the driver of hit-and-run accident which left Solomon crippled. They were told that the driver was arrested later, but could not obtain any information on where he was located or whether they could be compensated. The family says have chosen to forget all about the accident.

* * * * *

Salina* was born in 2005. She was born healthy and developed normally until reaching the age of one year. At this point, her family realized that she had a developmental problem and she was taken to the IRC Main Hospital in the camp. “At the hospital we were told that she was suffering from malnutrition,” explains one of her brothers.

Her legs and hands were paralyzed and she could not stand up on her feet. Saliva continually flowed from her mouth. “We took her to several hospitals in down-Kenya including Nairobi Hospital, Kijabe, and Kikuyu Mission Hospital. Even there we were told that the girl was suffering from malnutrition,” says one of her sisters.

UNHCR and IOM [International Organization for Migration] took care of the hospital bill and other expenses. Salina was admitted for one week during each trip for treatment to Nairobi. Her family traveled by road to reach hospitals down-country.

“The problem was so serious from January of this year. We lost her on 27th February. We held a small burial ceremony on the same day as is our religion,” says her brother.

Salina’s mother has borne ten children, four of whom have died, leaving her with six children. All of her children who died were breastfed, and she thinks that the problem may emanate from her milk since those who were not breastfed are all alive. She has been married twice.

* * * * *

These children and their families face profound uncertainties. What ailment does their child suffer from? They are sometimes given conflicting diagnoses or none at all. Could their child ever be cured? Parents say they are tormented by the possibility that their child could develop normally with access to more advanced medical care—yet they are unable to provide their children with this care.

The clinical officer for IRC (International Rescue Committee), Eric, says that the medical outlook for such children is often ambiguous. “Those children with congenital mental problems cannot get well even if they are taken to the highest and best hospital. For those whose problems developed after they were born, they can get well but funding also matters. Even if they were living in urban areas where they could get access to better care, the issue of money will matter and it will be expensive.”

On contacting the JRS Mental Health Programme on 12th March, the response was that officials could not give out information to the press until contacting their manager for permission. When the manager returned, she was reached for comment but was very busy and could not speak to KANERE.

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