Representatives of an American woman accused of causing the death of unspecified number of children from Busoga, Bugisu and some parts of Buganda sub-regions, have for the first time spoken out on the allegations.
Ms Renee Bach, 28, came to Uganda as a missionary in 2007 and by 2009, she had allegedly veered off her calling and started performing medical procedures on children at her organisation, Serving His Children (SHC) in Masese, Jinja, despite not having any formal medical training.
It is alleged that under her care, some children died, including Kifabi Twalali, 2, from Namutumba District, one Brian from Buyende District, Elijah Benjamin and one Wepukhulu, 6, from Manafwa District.
Yosam Masai, 8, from Buwangolo Village, Bubutu Sub-county in Manafwa District remains mentally retarded to-date after reportedly undergoing treatment at the hands of Ms Bach.
However, on Monday, Ms Bach, through her US-based lawyer David Gibbs, described the allegations as ‘nonsensical’ and ‘sensational’.
“Renee (Bach) is innocent of the nonsensical allegations being levelled against her by people who are leveraging the power of social media for their own agenda without verification of facts.
“Their defamation, libel and slander of her in these online attacks bounce around the world with no accountability and no evidence. The attackers are using the Internet to create a crisis that does not exist,” he said.
A woman claiming to be a former employee of SHC, who asked not to be named, told Daily Monitor in a recent interview that the children were sourced from Jinja, Butaleja and Manafwa districts, and brought to Masese.
“Here, Ms Bach would screen for the malnourished, moderately malnourished and severely malnourished children while checking pulses, heartbeats and prescribe medicine,” the source who claims to have worked with Ms Bach for six years, said.
By 2013, the public and some of her associates started questioning her work methods and in 2015, her facility was shut down by the Ministry of Health.
Following the shutdown, Ms Bach was told to take all malnourished children to government health facilities and she opted to partner with Kigandalo Health Centre IV in Mayuge District until September last year when she left the country.
Dr Haji Eboga, who until last Thursday was the officer-in-charge of Kigandalo Health Centre IV, on Monday said he had not seen Ms Bach at the facility since the year began.
“She used to come about four days a week, but since the year started, I have not seen her. We used to chat on WhatsApp but her number is also now currently off,” he said.
According to Mr Gibbs, for the 10 years Ms Bach was in the country, she worked alongside Ugandan medical professionals and learned skills to help provide assistance as necessary; and often assisted nurses and other healthcare professionals to serve in ‘crisis situations’.
“SHC hires licensed Ugandan doctors and nurses to provide healthcare through its nutrition programmes to combat malnutrition in Uganda.
“While Ms Bach is passionate about serving people, she understands that medical professionals should diagnose and treat medical conditions to provide the highest standard of care,” Mr Gibbs said in a two-page statement.
Victims speak out
Speaking to this reporter last week, Masai’s mother, Ms Goretti Kakai, 28, said around 2013, she took her malnourished son to Nakhupa Health Centre IV and it is here that she met a team led by Ms Bach.
“My son had a small wound as well and Ms Bach convinced me to transfer him to her clinic in Masese. However, during that three-month period, the wound deepened and Ms Bach chopped off a chunk of flesh around the wound and put it in the fridge,” Ms Kakai said.
When the wound wasn’t healing, Ms Kakai adds that she took her son to Jinja Regional Referral Hospital, where a chunk of flesh was removed from his left thigh and put on his arm, a procedure called skin grafting.
“He has, however, become mentally unstable, characterised by hitting his head hard on the floor to an extent that he bleeds,” she said.
Ms Ziriya Kizuba, 36, the grandmother of the late Twalali who died in 2013, said her grandchild was very malnourished when Ms Bach arrived in Namutumba.
“His grandfather was against the idea of transferring Twalali to Ms Bach’s clinic in Masese, but we had heard some success stories from the community and gave in.
“However, upon arrival in Masese, Twalali’s condition worsened and Ms Bach transferred him to an isolation room and put him on oxygen.
“Ms Bach then asked me to watch over him before telling me to go and wash his clothes; but when I returned, the boy and Ms Bach weren’t in the room I left them but in her bedroom upstairs.
“Ms Bach later descended the staircase, bypassed me and placed the body into one of the company’s waiting cars which took us to Namutumba,” Ms Kizuba said, describing the manner in which her dead grandchild was wrapped ‘like an Ebola victim’.
“Ms Bach didn’t give me a post-mortem of what killed my grandchild,” she explained.
A representative from Ms Bach’s organisation, who declined to be named because he is a government worker, last week said Masai, who is currently mentally retarded, suffers from cerebral palsy and is not part of the suit that is currently before court in Jinja.
On Twalali’s grandmother being given a body without a post-mortem, Ms Bach’s representative said: “If they want one, they can even get it now; parents should have asked for it then and can ask for it now. Post-mortems are done upon request and can be done even after 20 years.”
Mr Stephen Nahosi, 60, an immediate neighbour to Ms Bach’s Masese facility, said: “It is true some children died but I don’t blame her because even children in Mulago and Jinja Regional Referral Hospital die.”
Ms Bach’s representative added that she has not fled the country because of the case, but for her own security after enduring threatening social media attacks aimed at her,zino her family, friends and associates.
The Jinja District police commander, Mr Vincent Irama, said he was not aware of the matter because he only assumed office last year.
Through Women’s Probono Initiative (WPI), a civil society organisation, Ms Gimbo Zubeda and Annet Kakai, filed a notice of motion against Ms Bach and Serving His Children before Justice Michael Elubu on January 21, at Jinja High Court.
The respondents were supposed to report to court on March 12, but they reportedly never showed up.
The suit seeks to declare that Ms Bach and Serving His Children violated Ms Gimbo and Ms Kakai’s children’s rights to proper medical care when they operated and purported to treat them in an illegal ‘medical facility’ in Masese 1, Jinja without a license contrary to the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. The suit also seeks to declare that the respondents violated the second and third Applicants’ right to health when they operated an illegal medical facility in Masese 1, Jinja without a license and recruiting people to tout vulnerable children from communities to their facility contrary to the Constitution. The suspect allegedly operated a medical facility without a license, leading to the death of hundreds of children.