Mothers in Kenya feed their babies Coca Cola to kill them because they’re unable to get abortions, according to human rights activists.
The African country is in the grip of an infanticide ‘crisis’, as mothers seek ways to cope with or get rid of unwanted children.
Some have turned to using Coca Cola, ginger beer or other fizzy drinks, which they feed them instead of breast milk.
Newborns get all their nutrients from milk and, without it, can starve to death within days.
Significant numbers of babies are also left to die in rubbish dumps or rivers, later retrieved by workers as part of daily life.
Others choose backstreet abortionists who may deliver the babies early and then murder them. These procedures often have devastating or deadly consequences for the mothers, too.
The stories highlight the desperation of women who cannot afford to raise a family in a country where abortion is illegal.
Unsafe abortions are a leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality in Kenya, statistics show.
However, the scale of infanticide has not been officially measured. Anecdotal stories were shared with The Telegraph.
Vincent Odhiambo, a human rights activist in Kibera, a city slum, said: ‘Some women are not in a position to have a family. It is known that if you give a baby Coca-Cola, it will die.
‘You can imagine giving a small baby Coca-Cola instead of breast milk – it can’t last more than three days.’
In February, Kibera Community Justice Centre, where Mr Odhiambo works, received reports of a woman who had seen her neighbour giving a fatal overdose of Coca-Cola’s local ginger beer brand to her newborn daughter.
Florence, a government midwife, shared a series of pictures on her mobile phone of dead babies found on rubbish dumps.
One image is of a tiny girl hunched in the foetal position. Residents allege the mother had fed her Coca Cola.
Wilson Cheptoo, a rubbish sorter, reckons he alone finds 15 dead infants a year on the dump where he plies his trade. It’s not unusual among his colleagues, he said.
Over a single week in May, the corpses of eight infants were pulled from the Nairobi River’s waters which are bursting with rubbish.
More common than infanticide and abandonment, activists say, is backstreet abortions carried out by unqualified medics.
There is a shortfall in maternal health clinics since funding from the US has plummeted under Donald Trump administration.
In 2017, under pressure from the American ‘pro-life’ lobby, a ‘global gag rule’ meant any organisation that so much as offers as advice on abortion will be barred from American aid.
As a result, Family Health Options Kenya, just one organisation, had to eliminate free outreach services and close two clinics.
Abortion is illegal in Kenya unless a mother’s health is in danger. A 14-year prison sentence threatens anyone who carries out an ‘unauthorised’ abortions.
In 2014, a Kenyan nurse was sentenced to death after being found guilty of carrying out an abortion on a woman who later bled to death.
This means doctors are unwilling to take the risk, amid religious and political pressures, too.
With a lack of safe, cheap and legal abortions, women are often left with no choice but to save money to pay a quack for an abortion, charities warn.
Horror stories of unethical abortions are rife – one clinic which delivered babies before killing them with a hammer blow to the head was reportedly shut down earlier this year.
The abortions are risky for the woman too – seven women die every day as a result, according to Marie Stopes International, a leading women’s health charity.
As many as 350,000 Kenyan women a year will risk having an unsafe abortion and 21,000 women a year are admitted to hospital as a result.
An anonymous doctors recalled turning away a six-month pregnant woman, telling her it was too late to perform an abortion and offering counselling instead.
Later that night, as the doctor was closing the clinic, the woman returned, covered in blood.
‘Someone had torn open her womb,’ the doctor told The Telegraph. ‘Everything was pouring out. Her gut was spilling out.
‘I got her into theatre but her intestines were perforated and her womb chopped up. We transfused seven pints of blood, but she passed away six hours later.’
For those who cannot raise the sum for a backstreet abortion at all, a small minority will give birth to their child and are driven to murder.
Activists have urged for a change in law to allow for safer abortions, as well as better sex education, to stop infanticide and unsafe abortions from rising.
MailOnline has contacted Coca Cola for comment.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Vanessa Chalmers