BBC Africa Eye’s Year-Long Investigation Exposes The Theft And Sale Of Babies In Nairobi, Kenya

On 15 November, BBC Africa Eye released a documentary revealing how the intense pressure to have a male child and the stigma surrounding infertility in Kenya has led to a thriving black market for the exploitation of vulnerable women in Nairobi. The BBC team had launched a year-long investigation into the theft and sale of babies in Nairobi, Kenya after it was discovered that hundreds of children had gone missing over a number of years. Africa Eye exposed corrupt members of government and medical practitioners who had been directly involved in the sale of babies, stolen or purchased from coerced mothers. The investigation revealed that some government officials responsible for organizing legal adoptions were instead facilitating the sales and negotiating the prices for the babies. They uncovered illegal clinics housing pregnant women, whose unborn babies went on to be sold to women without children. This investigation revealed a crisis in that the intense pressure to have a male child, as well as the stigma surrounding infertility, was creating a market for the exploitation of vulnerable women through the theft and sale of their babies.

Maryana Munyedo, the founder of the NGO Missing Child Kenya, stated that the theft and sale of babies from vulnerable mothers have “not been prioritised in action response plans for social welfare.” A lack of knowledge of their rights, as well as little access to economic resources, means women are easily victimized and convinced that their children will be legally adopted and given a better life. Munyedo reported that her NGO has “barely scratched the surface” of this issue.

Peter Murimi, the producer of the documentary, believes that the discovery “demonstrates a widespread problem,” even though their findings are specific to Nairobi. Murimi aims to put further “pressure on the government to do the right thing…to ensure that children are not stolen and if they are, they can be easily traced and reunited with their families.”

Njeri Mwangi, the lead journalist on the investigation, stated that “cases of child-trafficking are under-reported and there are no statistics.” It is Mwangi’s hope that the documentary will encourage research and warn perpetrators that they risk being “arrested and jailed.”

The investigation has revealed widespread corruption and disregard for vulnerable women who believe adoption is the best outcome for their children. Posing as a buyer, a team from Africa Eye contacted various parties involved in the theft and sale of babies. From Anita, who befriended women in order to steal their babies and sell them, to Fred Leparan, a clinical social worker who worked at Mama Lucy Kibaki hospital and was found to be directly involved in the trafficking of children, and Mary Auma, an ex-nurse who operated an illegal clinic in Kayole, housing pregnant women and arranging the sale of their unborn children.

This manipulation of vulnerable women who lack the resources and social capital to fight for their rights renders them voiceless victims who remain unaware of the fate of their children. Rebecca, a woman whose baby was stolen, told Africa Eye that she thinks about the suburban women who buy stolen babies, stating “What are they thinking? How do they feel?” The investigation exposes the manipulation of both suburban women and the victims of theft. After the documentary aired, Africa Eye reported that Fred Leparan and Mary Auma had both kept their jobs despite the video evidence against them. However, the Kenyan government has since arrested four individuals and has launched a probe into child-trafficking.