A new set of triplets have been left stranded after their mum died shortly after their birth in an Abuja hospital, with their unemployed father dumping the family.
Distant relatives and friends are now struggling to give some attention to the three boys and their older siblings — a boy and a girl — and are calling for help from the government and Nigerians.
Before her death, Nkechi Okonya, 32, was the family’s bread-winner, raising her two children and supporting her husband from the proceeds of her petty trade, neighbours said.
Jersey and Kimberly — seven and five years old — have now dropped out of school with no one to take care of their education.
Their father was last seen shortly after the unlucky mum gave birth at Bwari General Hospital. She bled to death shortly afterwards leaving behind the five children.
Mrs Okonya was due for delivery on April 20 and was rushed to a Primary Health Centre in Bwari, a suburb of Abuja.
She was delivered of one of the children there prematurely at about 9:30 a.m.
“For hours they kept telling her to push thinking the baby left inside her was just one but nothing came out so they now referred her to Bwari General hospital.
When she arrived the Bwari hospital, the health workers there further delayed the delivery process, thereby worsening her situation. She held on until 5 p.m.
“I don’t know what happened but the doctors and nurses there still held on until about 5 p.m. before they wheeled her into the theatre.
“She delivered the remaining two children but was now bleeding heavily. She took four pints of blood in less than 15 minutes.
“At a point they (doctors) said she was stable and after a while, she died. It was around 12 midnight,” Mrs Ekwunife who was with her cousin at the moment of explained.
She said one of the triplets was placed on oxygen throughout the night because he was very weak.
She described the services rendered by the hospital as “careless and inhuman”.
“Why would a general hospital keep a woman who already delivered a baby elsewhere from 12pm to 5pm without conducting an operation?” she questioned.
“Even when she finally delivered and died, they did not even weigh the kids. They just asked us to leave the hospital immediately that night. They don’t even have an ambulance.”
The triplets were released from the hospital later, and Mrs Ekwunife, still mourning her cousin, has relied on help from her husband and friends as she juggles taking care of the kids and holding down her job as a lawyer.
Emeka Okonya, the father of the triplets is a graduate but unemployed.
Family and friends said he has since abandoned the family on the excuse he had no money and job.
A hospital source said the husband was chased away by nurses after he confronted his wife as she fought for her life, questioning why she gave birth to three additional children when she knew his condition.
One hospital source said the woman started bleeding again shortly after that confrontation, and Mr Okonya was driven away from the hospital. It was the last the saw him.
The deceased mum is yet to be buried as her family insists marriage rites be performed as is the tradition in Arochukwu, Abia state, where she hailed from.
Mr Okonya’s younger sister, Mary, visibly troubled said during a visit to the family in Kubwa, “This is a very big challenge because my brother does not have anything doing at the moment, he is financially unstable. When the mother was alive she was the one catering for the family with her petty trading business.”
Who takes care of triplets?
The responsibility of taking care of the triplets and the two other children has become a burden for relatives and friends.
Mrs Ekwunife said so far her husband and some generous individuals had been the ones footing all the bills as regards taking care of the five children.
“We raised some funds via Facebook in a group I belong to called Abuja Mums. It is from there that we got the fund to take care of them so far. They assist with clothings, diapers and all.”
The late mother’s elder sister, Ogonnaya Obasi, is the one carrying and nurturing the little infants.
However, the burden has even become heavier for the relatives.
Mrs Obasi said she was planning to take the five children down to Abakiliki, Ebonyi state, to know how she could handle the situation from there.
“I want to take them to Abakiliki. I don’t have any plan but I pray God will help us. I beg the government to come to our aid and give the children scholarships. I also beg civil societies and well-meaning Nigerians to assist in training thee triplets,” Obasi said amidst tears.
While also calling for assistance for the family, Joseph Osuigwe, executive director of Devatop Centre for Africa Development, warned that such situation breeds human trafficking.
The organisation is a youth-led nonprofit group focused on combating human trafficking, gender-based violence, child abuse, and providing educational materials and welfare for vulnerable children.
“I am particularly bothered about the welfare of these children, because they should not in any way be made to suffer or bear the consequences of irresponsibility of the hospital to attend to their mother with sense of urgency and emergency; and of the father to ensure their welfare,” Mr Osuigwe said.
“It is such situation that breeds human trafficking. When children are subjected to such conditions, they are vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.”