In December last year, uhondonews.com exclusively published the sad story of 47-year-old Ruth Omungala – a Kenyan domestic worker who died of malnutrition in the Iraqi city of Baghdad – went viral on social media.
Months after her death controversial death which was heavily condemned by Kenyans back at home, her family has chosen to bury a banana stem after they were unable to bring back her body from the Arab country.
Ruth Omungala from Ingusi village in Mumias, Kakamega county passed away in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
On Saturday, her parents in Ingusi village, Mumias, buried a banana stem in place of their deceased daughter. The family wrapped the banana stem in white and laid it on a table in a tent to symbolize the deceased’s remains.
After a short burial service, the stem was then lowered into a shallow grave near the family’s home.
“If we don’t do what tradition demands, the family could be haunted by her spirit. There is nothing else we can do for now,” said a relative to Ruth.
The ‘burial’ was only attended by close family members.
The family had been allowed to hold prayers and conduct the burial in 45 minutes to avoid a gathering of villagers in line with the Ministry of Health’s guidelines on social distancing in burials and other public places.
Ms. Omungala, who was working as a nanny in Baghdad, reportedly died of malnutrition, barely nine months after she moved to the Gulf nation.
One of her Kenyan workmates, Grace Makokha is quoted saying that Omungala complained of vomiting and diarrhea and died after her agent refused to take her to hospital.
Earlier this month, the family pleaded with the government to help them airlift Ruth’s remains to Kenya for burial but their plea fell on deaf ears.
“My sister lived in Nairobi and worked as a nanny. She also did other odd jobs. We were shocked when we learned she had traveled to Baghdad and died after falling sick,” she said.
The family also lamented that a lawyer and people claiming to work for human rights organizations asked them for money to help them bring back Omungala’s body.
“They are asking us to pay money. We paid Ksh. 60,000 to a lawyer who promised to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help facilitate the transportation of my sister’s body for burial but since January, he no longer picks my calls,” Okulia cried out.
Her final request was to be flown back home but the agent, identified only as Ali, said this would happen after Christmas.
Her agent took no action despite being informed that she was severely vomiting. A photo showing Omungala before she died was later shared in a WhatsApp group.