Lodunga means a beautiful fruit tree in the language of the Turkana tribe, people of northern Kenya.
Lodunga is a beautiful dark skinned and bright eyed 10-year girl. The daughter to Ekuno, a tall elegant 26-yr old mother who dresses in full Turkana traditional clothing. Ekuno had Lodunga at 16-yrs of age. Lodunga is the first of three children. (Ekiru a boy of 8-yrs and Egule girl of 3-yrs followed).
Ekuno and her three children live in absolute poverty. In the heat of 110-degrees in Northern Kenya, Lodunga can only scavenge for food in the cool of night. One night Ekuno put her three children to bed. An animal skin for a mattress in a mud hut 6ft x 8ft in size. One side of the hut was the cooking area while the other was the sleeping area. Ekuno set off with two other young mothers from the village. She had put out the wood fire… so she thought, before setting off.
The search for food would take all night; she often did this every few days. Ekuno had no fear leaving her three children sleeping; this was a survival trip she was making. When she was asked where she was going to find the food, she said in the bushes and along the road. Mushrooms, weeds, roots and herbs. She said the three young mothers used the usual route they had used for weeks. Then she said at about 3-am, she heard voices calling their names. Their baskets were almost full at this point. It was pitch dark, but it was clear the voices were mixed with cries. Finally they were met by a crowd of older women and young men. It was her name they were shouting out. Ekuno said she threw her basket as she immediately knew something was wrong.
(At this point she stopped talking for about 5-min as tears rolled down her cheeks and unable to talk any further through the Turkana translator next to her at our hospital).
Ekuno begins to talk again. She said she’ll never know how fast she ran. But it was over 15-km at full speed; crying and shouting out for her children. As she approached the village she could smell the heavy smoke but couldn’t see a fire. Held back by the villages, she somehow managed to fight them off and run to her hut. There was a reason they tried to pin her down. To save her from the horror that had happened.
The fire she thought was out was still burning. It flicked and caught the corner of the only blanket all three children shared. Within minutes the tiny hut, with grass thatched roof was in flames. Ekuno had locked the children in with a padlock from the outside. Thinking this was how to keep them safe – just like she always did. The children were unable to escape. The villagers battled the flames as they tried to break the door open. Finally the door burnt down and one villager was able to pull on whatever they could hold onto in the dark. It was young Lodunga’s left leg. They pulled her out of the burning hut. Most of her body, legs, top of her head was completely burnt. Her younger siblings were burnt beyond recognition. Not a single bone was to be found of their tiny bodies.
Mother Ekuno begins to cry again….how could she not; this had happened three months ago. Three months ago, she was a mother of three. Today… a mother of one single child fighting for her life.
Good Samaritans brought them to Shoe4Africa Public Children’s Hospital the next day. She does not know who the man was that paid to bring them; nor has she seen him again. She can’t remember anything apart from arriving at our hospital after a long journey that took an entire day.
Lodunga was given little chance to live in Turkana but the doctors at Shoe4Africa worked through the night, the next day, and subsequent days to save her life… and they did.
Today Lodunga is still covered in bandages from head to toe. The Doctors at Shoe4Africa burns unit say she will be in hospital for at least one year. The mother says she has nothing to go back home to; Everything she has is with her – Lodunga. She does not want to leave the hospital.
The Shoe4Africa hospital will not charge Ekuno a dime. She has none to give. But the hospital staff and doctors give them the best care. Ekuno says with a slight smile ‘God is in this place, I have never been in a building this big or seen so many nice people’. She reports, ‘Every week, every week, I see my daughter heal. She will pull me through, and I know if I had remained in Turkana I would be a broken woman with three dead children.’
Hope from such a tragedy, because of giving hearts around the world Lodunga will heal and live a normal life!
Update: Thanks to Kevin Freeburn for reading and sending a donation for Lodunga, that we will take directly to her.