CS Kagwe expresses regret over how Covid-19 victim James Oyugi was buried

CS Kagwe expresses regret over how Covid-19 victim James Oyugi was buried
File image of Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe. PHOTO| COURTESY

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has expressed regret over the manner in which James Oyugi Onyango, a resident of Siaya County, was buried after he succumbed to Covid-19 two weeks ago.

In his response to the Senate Ad Hoc Committee, which had earlier raised concern over the matter, the Health CS admitted that Mr. Oyugi was buried in an undignified manner.

“The Cabinet Secretary for Health expressed the sincere regret of the Ministry regarding the way the burial of the late James Oyugi Onyango was carried out. He conceded that this was not in line with the Guidelines issued by the Ministry, which promote a dignified burial process, respect for the deceased and respect for the rights of the family,” said Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, in his submission to the Senate on Tuesday.

CS Kagwe further reaffirmed that a posthumous laboratory test had confirmed that Mr. Oyugi was killed by the Coronavirus infection.

“On the question why the protocols laid out by the Ministry were not followed in undertaking the burial, the Cabinet Secretary restated that the burial was not conducted in line with the guidelines and protocols developed by the Ministry,” Sakaja further submitted on behalf of the committee.

Following the response from Ministry of Health, the Senate has recommended that CS Mutahi Kagwe contacts Oyugi’s family to make a private apology.

“… having acknowledged that the burial of Mr. James Owino Onyango was not carried out in line with the guidelines and protocols issued by the Ministry, and noting the distress the matter has caused not just to Mr. Onyango’s immediate family but also to the community in Siaya and beyond, the Cabinet Secretary should get in touch with and offer a private apology to the family of the late Mr. Mr. James Owino Onyango,” added Sakaja

The Senate further wants the Ministry of Health to roll out a robust program to train and create awareness among members of the County Health Teams in all Counties, on the guidelines and protocols for handling and burial of a person who has died from Coronavirus.

This is to ensure that such an incident does not happen again, and also to address the stigma associated with coming into contact with or having a family member die from Coronavirus.

The late James Oyugi, who worked at the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) in Mombasa, died from COVID-19 on April 10.

The body was disinfected the same day and then hurriedly buried at around 2:30am on Saturday.

A video capturing the horrifying incident showed two medical personnel offloading Oyugi’s body from a pick-up before throwing it into a shallow grave.

Family members of the deceased were heard wailing in the background as the medical team covered the grave with soil.

Siaya Senator James Orengo who moved to court over the incident described the burial as “awful, gruesome and despicable.”

Orengo submitted that: “Human dignity does not end with death. In all cultures across the world the burial of the dead is a solemn event accompanied with elaborate rituals. We respect the dead and that is why we have graves, tombs, crypts, mausoleums and pyramids. Veneration of the dead is based on love, respect and dignity for the deceased.”

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Story By Benjamin Muriuki
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