Shortage of critical waste bags worsens agony of patients

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Peter was diagnosed with rectal cancer  in 2016 and went through chemotherapy and radiotherapy.  The disease recurred in 2017 and he had to have  his rectum removed. 

Although he has been using stoma (waste) bags to drain waste from his body, he has not been supplied with the bags for the last five months.

Reason: the consignment is stuck in Mombasa after the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) stopped clearing the bags in 2018.

“With stoma, I could go about my life bearably. All I needed to do was to drain it when it is full since people living with this condition will not know when they want to go for a long call. All you realise is when the bag is full,” he said.

The patient did not want his name revealed because of the stigma associated with the condition.

“Most people do not know that I have the condition. I’ve been living a somewhat bearable, but now I’m not comfortable; the stench we produce without the bags is too much. People might not want to sit next to you,” he told the Nation.

At the Nakuru Hospice patients are faced with a lack of the bags. Lucy Njeri and Moses Njoroge have literally depended on the bags to survive, they eat only when the bags are available, if not they survive on drinks to avoid going for long calls. They have not received the bags for five months.

The three represent thousands of Kenyans who have undergone surgery especially for for cancer of the small intestine, colon and bladder  forcing them to use stoma bags that collect stool through a small hole on the abdomen.

“This has forced me not to eat regularly as I fear the cheap bags that I am using may embarrass me,” says Ms Njeri. The mother of one says that at times she is forced to travel to Nairobi to get the bags. “Some of the bags I buy in Nairobi are of poor quality, they are irritating and leak,” she says.

The second-hand clothes dealer  appealed to the government to release the waiver certificate to their umbrella body, Stoma World Kenya, to enable it to order more bags from donors.

Mr Moses Njoroge, 45, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2010. He said he had stopped eating and was depending on fluids as he has run out of the bags.

“I’m drinking a lot of porridge, juice and soup to keep me going as I wait for  the bags from our donors,” he said.

Stoma World Kenya secretary Sally Kwenda says two people have died due to the shortage of the bags.

Ms Kwenda, 50, who was diagnosed with colon cancer 11 years ago, says at least 1,000 survivors across the country depend on the bags from Canada.

She said they had submitted the waiver application to Kebs early this year. “We’ve not received any communication [from them],” she said.

The Canadian donors, the Friends of Ostomates Worldwide, are unable to ship the bags to Kenya because the  Trade ministry is yet to clear them.

Dr Victor Achoka, a pharmacist in Nakuru Town says, high quality stoma bags go for between Sh1,000 and Sh1,500 each. “Low quality bags which go for as little as Sh400 pose risks for patients as they can leak and embarrass them in public,” said Dr Achoka.

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