Kenyan house help hurt in Jordan fire tragedy returns home
A house help is nursing serious burns, which she sustained while working in the Middle East.
Mary Kibwana Kamangu, who had been working in Jordan for 10 months when the incident happened, told journalists from her Kenyatta National Hospital bed on Monday that she had been making a cup of tea in the kitchen on April 17 when the gas cylinder exploded.
“My clothes and lower body immediately caught fire before it spread to my chest. I managed to run to the bathroom where I passed out,” she said.
When she regained consciousness, her boss was kicking her on the back and legs while hurling insults at her.
Her screams caught the attention of a neighbour who rushed to the house and immediately called the police, who promptly took her to hospital.
For six weeks, Ms Kamangu lay at the Al Bashir Hospital, in the capital Amman, in excruciating pain as her employers ignored her pleas to contact her family in Kenya to let them know she was seriously injured.
“I would cry every day, begging the doctors and the nurses to send me home but nobody listened. I begged to be allowed to speak to the Kenyan embassy but the people in the hospital ignored me. It was after they realised that I was not getting better that my employers finally made arrangements for me to come to Nairobi,” she said.
The 31-year-old mother of four explained that she was finally assigned two doctors to watch over her during the flight from Amman to Cairo for a connecting flight to Nairobi last Saturday.
“When we saw her at the airport, she was in a wheelchair, swathed in bandages and covered from head to toe in a buibui. We did not know the extent of her injuries until we got to the hospital and the doctors uncovered her. I was so pained by her injuries that I broke down,” said her husband of 15 years, Mr Peter Mbela Mambo.
Ms Kamangu’s case shot to the limelight after Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko shared photos of her injuries on social media, prompting public outrage.
In the photos, which we cannot publish due to their graphic nature, Ms Kamangu is lying on a hospital stretcher with burns covering her chest, breasts, stomach, thighs and legs.
In some places, the burnt flesh seems to be rotting and covered in what looks like pus. Both her arms are heavily bandaged.
When we visited her at the hospital, she had just had fresh dressings for her injuries, a procedure that had left her in pain so excruciating that the powerful painkillers doctors had injected into her were useless.
The injuries had left her so traumatised that she referred to herself in the third person, often mumbling details of the ordeal but showing remarkable fortitude and optimism.
“My female boss and her daughter would often beat me for the most trivial of reasons. They would also give me bad food. I had no breaks from work and I would toil from 6am daily to late in the night. They took my passport away the day I arrived and I had no access to a calendar so I never knew what day it was, let alone the time,” she said.
According to nurse Jane Obiero, who has been taking care of her since she was admitted at KNH on Sunday morning, Ms Kamangu will need psychiatric treatment to ease her trauma and specialised treatment for her burns.
“She has 47 per cent burns, which we are currently treating with antibiotics to stave off any infections. Burn victims usually also suffer from psychological trauma so we will get her a psychiatrist as part of her treatment,” said Ms Obiero.
Ms Kamangu faces a long road to recovery and her family is crying out for her employers to be punished for being abusive and negligent.
“We cannot understand how her employers let 40 days elapse before notifying us of Mary’s injuries. They might not have set her on fire themselves but they certainly contributed to her suffering and we want them punished,” said Mr Hezekiah Mshila, her brother-in-law.