How family learnt of Kenyan woman kept in Saudi morgue for two years

Praxidis Okiya holds a portrait of her daughter Eunice Achieng' during an interview at her home in Eldama Ravine, Baringo County, on June 30, 2024. 

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi Nation

What you need to know:

  • Eunice Achieng left Kenya with dreams of supporting her family, but her harrowing experience as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia ended in tragedy.

  • After years of uncertainty, Praxidis Okiya received devastating news: her daughter, Achieng, had died under unclear circumstances.

When Eunice Achieng travelled to Saudi Arabia in July 2022 after securing a job as a domestic worker through an agent, she was in high spirits and full of expectations.

She hoped to change her family's fortunes and send her two children to good schools.

Her family in Eldama Ravine, Baringo County, said Achieng, who was married in Maseno, Kisumu County, asked her mother for her blessing before travelling to Saudi Arabia.

Tragic journey

Although her mother was against her travelling, she eventually relented, wished her daughter well and released her to work as a domestic helper.

Achieng left her children with her in-laws and left the country, hoping that her new job would help her provide for her family.

The family says they were only able to communicate with her for two months – July and August 2022.

Achieng's mother, Praxidis Okiya, told the Nation that in August 2022 she received a call from her daughter saying that her host was mistreating her and threatening to kill her.

Heartbreaking loss

Her voice, the mother said, was so shaky and full of fear that she began making arrangements to rescue her daughter.

"'Please save me' were her last words. Since then, l have been having nightmares and agonising over the fate of my daughter," said Okiya.

“She never told me why her employer wanted to kill her, she only said that she needed help. She was terrified, I could feel it in her voice."

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A portrait of Eunice Achieng, who died in unclear circumstances in Saudi Arabia. 

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi Nation

In the two years that she has been missing, the family has clung to the hope that she will turn up at the end of her two-year contract and return home alive.

That hope was shattered on June 12 this year, when Okiya received the heart-breaking news of Achieng's death in Saudi Arabia.

According to Okiya, an official from the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs contacted the area chief in Maseno and asked for the family's whereabouts to break the news and return her daughter's passport.

Okiya said the chief informed Achieng's in-laws in Maseno of what had happened. The in-laws later broke the devastating news to Okiya's family.

"I don't know what happened and how exactly she died. As a family, we haven't received any explanation of what happened," she told the Nation.

"We have been traumatised ever since [we received the news]."
Okiya painfully recalls trying to dissuade Achieng from working in Saudi Arabia before giving in and allowing her to travel.

"I feared for the life of my daughter following a spate of attacks on domestic workers abroad (at the time)...I finally wished her well and asked her to put God first in her mission to change our lives and those of her children," she said.

Unanswered questions

Shortly before learning of Achieng's death, Okiya had planned to file a missing person's report with the Immigration Department, as she had not heard from her daughter for almost two years.

When she learned of her daughter's death, she visited the woman who had put Achieng in touch with the agents who had facilitated her travel to Saudi Arabia.

After the woman made several calls to the Nairobi office, the agents told the family that Achieng had last been seen in August 2022 at a construction site where she had sought shelter. Later, four Kenyan women told a construction worker that they would help Achieng find shelter and help her find another job.

She was never heard from again.

Armed with this information, Okiya contacted the Immigration Department for answers. Immigration officials told her that her daughter had died in March this year.

However, the family has since learned from another source that Achieng may have died two years ago.

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Praxidis Okiya holds a portrait of her daughter Eunice Achieng' during an interview at her home in Eldama Ravine, Baringo County, on June 30, 2024. 

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi Nation

Shortly after the family learned of her death, her story was published online by a local media station. This caught the attention of a US activist who investigates cases of missing foreigners and had investigated Achieng's case.

The activist contacted the family through the reporter who had written about Achieng and told them that he had been looking for them to tell them about Achieng.

He told the family that Achieng had died in unclear circumstances on October 5, 2022 and had been in a Saudi morgue ever since.

A death certificate obtained by the Nation from the US activist shows that Achieng died under unclear circumstances.

Efforts by the Nation to obtain comment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were unsuccessful.

Praxidis Okiya at her home in Eldama Ravine, Baringo County on June 30, 2024. Her daughter, Eunice Achieng, died in Saudi Arabia under unclear circumstances. Boniface Mwangi Nation

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi Nation

Text messages and phone calls to Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, who is also the Prime Cabinet Secretary, went unanswered.

However, a junior officer not authorised to speak to the press said the information sought by the Nation could only be given to the family.

Achieng's family is seeking justice and help to raise the Sh330,000 needed to repatriate the body.