Boni residents bear blunt of Alshabaab attacks as dispensaries remain closed

Lamu residents flee villages for Linda Boni bombing to root out al Shabaab. Children from the Boni community have been facing challenges in new schools deemed to be safe PHOTO: COURTESY.

Lamu,KENYA:The state of insecurity caused by constant Al-Shabaab attacks has caused the Boni forest community in Lamu County untold misery.

The Boni occupy the five villages of Basuba Ward in Lamu East which include Basuba, Milimani, Mangai, Mararani and Kiangwe and Pandanguo Village in Lamu West.

All the six health centres and dispensaries in all the villages housing the Boni people have been closed down for the past three years leaving the residents at the mercy of witch doctors and herbalists who are now making a kill from their services.

In extreme or emergence cases the Bonis have to walk for over 35 kilometers to the nearest medical facility located at the NYS training camp at Bar’goni in order to get the much needed medical attention.

On several occasions Al-Shabaab militants have raided, looted and vandalized dispensaries in these villages bringing the facilities to their knees.

Staff who had been working at the facilities have so far also fled for their lives following increased Alshabaab attacks leaving the residents with no medical personnel to attend to them.

The buildings that were once revered dispensaries and health centres now stand desolate with no sign of life as the affected villagers resort to witch doctors and herbalists whenever they fall ill.

The Mangai dispensary was looted, vandalized and torched by Al-Shabaab militants in August 2015 and has never recovered since then.

July 3,2014, Al-Shabaab militants looted, vandalized and torched the Pandanguo dispensary belonging to yet another group of Boni people in Pandanguo area in Lamu West.

The facility was yet again looted by the same Alshabaab militants in July this year grounding the facility completely.

It should be noted that all the six Boni villages border the now infamous Boni forest which is currently under a security operation dubbed Linda Boni whose objective is to flush out Alshabaab militants said to be hiding deep within from where they have been launching deadly attacks on civilians and security agencies.

The Boni who are traditionally hunters and gatherers have for decades depended upon the forest for survival but were locked out immediately the Operation Linda Boni was launched in September 2015.

The Bonis have not been able to access medical care since 2015 when the Basuba,Milimani,Mangai,Mararani,Kiangwe and Pandanguo dispensaries were closed down and staff fled for fear of the Alshabaab.

Residents have been left with no option than to turn to witch doctors and herbalists for medical attention whenever they fall sick.

An administrator who spoke on cond+ition of anonymity for fear of being victimized said villagers in the affected villagers have been losing many of their loved ones due to the lack of medical facilities.

He said the herbalists and witchdoctors were also charging dearly for their services and that many couldn’t afford.

He said those who don’t want the services of the witchdoctors and herbalists have to either watch their loved ones die or trek for over 35 kilometres to the Bargoni NYS camp for treatment.

“The Bargoni NYS facility is located very far from our villages and many sick people cant cover the distance.So many lives have been lost since the dispensaries here were closed down.Many others are now using witch doctors and herbalists who have hiked their prices so that many cant even afford them too,”he said.

Volunteer health workers who used to visit the villages and offer free medical services have also stopped coming owing to the rampant Alshabaab attacks in the areas and general state of insecurity.

“Health workers used to visit villages and treat people freely immediately the dispensaries were grounded.That doesn’t happen anymore,we have been left to our own fate and our people are dying.We know its because of insecurity,”said Fatah Adnan of Mangai village.

The worst affected in the crisis are pregnant women and cghildten who cant get the required vaccines on time.

According to Pandanguo village elder Adan Golja,the over 2000 Boni villagers have to trek for over 21 kilometres to Witu health centre to be able to get medical services after the Pandanguo dispensary closed down shortly after it was vandalized by Alshabaab in July this year.

Golja appealed to the county government to deploy staff and equipment to enable the facilty serve residents who are in dire need of its services.

“We only had a nurse at the facility but he fled shortly after Alshabaab vandalized it in July.They stole drugs and other supplies leaving the dispensary on its knees.We appreciate the security but we need medical care too,”said Golja.