Working With the Wounded Victims to Save Lives

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The volunteer nurses working at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Referral Hospital in Kisumu carried a young man into the casualty ward. He was wearing only jeans and had an open wound near his ear.

Volunteer and hospital nurses working together

Benson Odhiambo, 20, had been taken to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Referral Hospital after being shot in the head by police. (Jennifer Huxta)

Several times, the man, named Benson Odhiambo, tried to sit up, dazed, and a nurse had to cradle his head and help him lie back down on the stretcher. Elizabeth Mokkonen, a volunteer nurse from Nairobi, confirmed that the bullet had penetrated his brain. Once they had stabilized him, doctors transferred Odhiambo to the operating room.

“In Kisumu alone, I attended to six gunshot wounds and I saw 14 [of them],” Mokkonen said over the phone a week after the election.

Those victims, like Benson Odhiambo, survived. However, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, human rights organizations estimate that at least 67 people have died at the hands of Kenyan police since protests began in August.

“There are other channels to use, not shooting,” Mokkonen said, unable to comprehend the police brutality she had witnessed.

I never thought I would see it here – bones shattered in bodies. I never thought it could get to that [point].”

According to the intake register at the hospital, by October 26, the second day of clashes in Kisumu, there were 11 victims of gunshot wounds. The bodies of three men who had been killed in the election-related violence – two from gunshot wounds and one from being beaten on the head and neck – were being held at the morgue until their families could come to get them.