NAIROBI, KENYA —
Protesters marched in Nairobi Tuesday following accusations that staff at one of the city's largest hospitals have tried to sexually assault new mothers. The hospital denied the claims but has joined the health ministry in calling for a criminal investigation.
It was a Facebook post gone viral that led to this march demanding better security and better maternal care at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi.
The administrator of a popular Facebook group known as "Buyer Beware” posted the story of new mother who said she was nearly raped in the corridors of the hospital while going to breastfeed her baby. Other group members chimed in, alleging similar experiences and other misconduct by hospital staff.
Later that same day, the Ministry of Health ordered police to investigate.
On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters marched to the Ministry of Health to present a petition and then on to the hospital itself.
There, outside the main gate, the marchers traded insults with hospital staff.
Police acted as a buffer. Hospital staff held placards, some which read, “We are not Rapists. We are Professionals,” while protesters held signs calling the hospital a vulgar name.
The hospital head, Lily Koros, responded to the allegations.
“We wish to state that there is no mother or patient that has reported to have been raped or an attempted rape at Kenyatta National Hospital. KNH has 24 hour CCTV surveillance in the lifts and along the corridors and along the wards including the newborn unit. Besides there is a security team, including uniformed officers, who oversee the safety and security of patients in the hospital during the day and night,” said Koros.
But the social media posts have struck a nerve in Kenya.
Edna Okerosi took the day off work to participate in the protest.
“Rape is stigma in itself, even in our homes and even in our estates. When someone is raped, it is so hard for even somebody to go out because at the end of the day when you go out to report, it’s like you are being raped again because you are reliving the experience,” said Okerosi.
KNH is the city’s main public referral hospital. Other allegations facing the hospital administration are rampant petty theft in the facility, slow service delivery and overcrowding in the wards.
Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu has pledged to take action based on those findings.