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Health ministry plans to exhume remains of Oshikuku newborn

Health ministry plans to exhume remains of Oshikuku newborn

Niël Terblanché

 

THE heart rendering scenario that played out at the cemetery next to the Roman Catholic Hospital in Oshikuku where a man and woman had to bury the body of baby that was given to them in box will be addressed urgently.

 

The Executive Director of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Ben Nangombe, in a statement said that the handing out of human remains in a carton box is at variance with the established practice of the ministry and the legal requirements for proper handling of human remains.

 

In this regard, Nangombe said that the health ministry is willing to, and in consultation with the family, provided that the necessary order is granted by a Court of Law as required, to exhume the recently buried body of the baby and to provide a dignified re-burial for the newborn to reaffirm the sanctity of human life and the Namibian Government’s commitment to assist the most vulnerable members of society.

 

According to Nangombe, the ministry instituted an immediate investigation into the matter and found that the Angolan woman residing in Namibia on 31 December 2020 presented herself at Oshikuku Catholic Hospital with a chief complaint that her unborn baby had stopped moving.

 

Upon examination, the pregnancy was determined to be in the 32nd week and no foetal heartbeat was detected.

 

The attending doctor induced labour and a stillbirth occurred on the same day.

 

According to Nangombe, the Sister-in-Charge of the Maternity Ward explained the procedures to the mother, that in such instances, she had to decide, before being discharged from the hospital, whether the body should be incinerated or the family wishes to conduct a burial.

 

He said the mother opted for a burial, citing cultural beliefs.

 

“The body was thereafter taken to the mortuary at Oshikuku Catholic Hospital, to give the family a chance to arrange for a proper burial. On 3 January 2021, the mother and her brother came to claim the body from the mortuary,” he said.

 

He further stated that the mother and her brother were informed to bring a coffin but that they told the hospital personnel that they did not have money to purchase one.

 

The mother and her brother allegedly requested to be given a box in which to place the stillborn’s body.

 

The statement from the health ministry further stated that the Mortuary Attendant informed them to go to the Maternity Ward in order to receive explanation on the correct procedures for claiming and handling of the body.

 

“The Ministry of Health and Social Services complies with the legal provisions regarding the handling of human remains. Where a family is unable to conduct a funeral, provision is made to conduct what is known as “a pauper’s burial”. This is provided for in the bylaws of local authorities,” he said.

 

According to Nangombe, it is a practice that takes place from time to time, with authorisation of the Health Minister and in conjunction with local authorities.

 

He said the ministry will offer the family the opportunity to provide a proper burial for the stillborn baby.

 

Nangombe expressed concern over the way that the event was captured on video and said that it appears as if there was an intention to spread malicious information about the work of the hospital and the ministry in general.

 

In this regard, Nangombe requested members of the public to help identify the person who recorded and narrated the unfolding event at the Oshikuku Catholic Hospital cemetery.

 

He said this information is required to fully investigate the incident, so as to determine the full details of what exactly happened.

 

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