Village where every family has lost at least one member to drowning

Monica Sigilaih mourns the death of her eight-year-old child who died after drowning in Molo River at Mololine village in Nakuru County.

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

Mentioning the words “Molo river” brings back bad memories for Ms Monicah Sigilai.

On August 22, her 8-year-old daughter was trying to retrieve her container that had drifted away in the river, only to slip and fall into the water.

Her 15-year-old daughter was with the Grade Two pupil. She tried to rescue her but was overpowered by the overwhelming current and she, too, was swept away.

The teenager was rescued by a Good Samaritan drawn to the river by the children’s screams but the younger girl died.

The body of Lavender Cherop, a Muricho Primary School pupil, was later found and retrieved by villagers, sending the whole community into mourning.

Pius Korir and William Kiplagat on a tree bridge that locals of Mololine village use to cross Molo River.

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

“I’m always thinking about her, she was my last-born. The children are still traumatised and they can’t go to the river alone. I must accompany them whenever they want to fetch water,” said the widow and mother of three.

About 100 metres from Ms Sigilai’s homestead we met Ms Martha Gathira, whose grandson drowned in the same river in July.

The four-year-old boy, she said, had taken cows to drink when he was swept away by the river. His body was retrieved a day later.

For Ms Mercy Chepkorir, it was a close call at the river on November 13.

The mother of one said she was rinsing her clothes when she stepped on a slippery rock and fell into the river but was rescued by her cousin.

William Kiplagat at the spot where a number of people have died after slipping into Molo river at Miloline village, Visoi ward in Nakuru County.

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

She said she was yet to come to terms with what happened and has been having nightmares about the incident.

“I thank God I am alive today. So many questions are still running in my mind. If I die, who will take care of my eight-month-old son? Something must be done about this river. We have lost many people,” Ms Chepkorir said.

In yet another incident, Ms Margret Wanguia told the Nation that she lost her brother-in-law in 1999 in the same river.

The man, Peter Burno, was returning from work when he was swept away as he tried to cross the river in Mirochi village. His body was found two days later after an intensive search.

Margaret Wangui's in-law died after drowning in Molo River.

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

She said parents are always worried about their children who cross the Molo river to a neighbouring school.

“We don’t have peace on school days. When your child returns in the evening, you just thank God that they are back home safe. We can’t always pick them up, because we have to work so they can eat,” she said.

These are some of the drowning cases reported in the sleepy village of Mololine in Lengenet location, Rongai sub-county.

Villagers claim they have retrieved at least 23 bodies since they were legally allowed to occupy the land in 1999.

The village, made up of at least 200 households, is surrounded by the Molo river. The only bridge in the area is seven kilometres away, prompting residents to find more convenient ways of crossing the river. 

There is no hospital in Mololine village and residents must seek health services in neighbouring Muricho.

To help locals cross the river more safely, someone has built a makeshift footbridge, which they call Daraja Mungu.

Mololine resident Mr William Kiplagat said the footbridge serves pupils from Muricho and Kipsaos primary schools who used to walk more than seven kilometres to their destinations.

It also helps residents seeking services at the nearby Muricho dispensary.

"We urge the government to build a bridge that will link us to the other village,” said Ms Emily Chepkwony, who has lived in Mololine for 10 years.

Pius Korir.

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

“The one we have is very far and it becomes difficult, especially for pregnant women. We are even ready to donate land for the bridge."

Area Assistant Chief Emmy Kirui said she had documented at least four drowning cases since she took up her role in 2016.

She said most victims are children who go to the river without adults and others who must cross the river to the school in the neighbouring village.

“Most people in this community depend on the water from the river. They don’t have piped water in their homesteads, but they just need to be more careful to avert more deaths,” Ms Kirui said.