Two cases of toddlers with pricking objects inside their bodies are not the first documented cases. In other countries the practice is associated with the dark world of voodooism
Charles Okwemba @charlito56
The saga of two babies with needles in their bodies has left many questions in the minds of Kenyans. The first incident was reported last year in December at Thika Level 5 Hospital where doctors successfully removed 13 sewing needles from a 10-month-old baby.
The mother of the infant claimed she had no idea of how the needle got there. She said she discovered the needles when they pricked her as she applied jelly on the baby.
The latest case early this week where seven needles were discovered lodged in the body of a three-year-old child at Kapenguria County Referral Hospital in West Pokot deepened the mystery.
The grandparents have been taking care of the child after the mother got married. They took the child to the hospital after she started getting sick.
Such cases are not new on the global scene. In 2009 in Brazil, a two-year-old boy had 31 needles removed from his body. It was alleged his stepfather allegedly inserted the needles as part of a black magic ritual.
Another case was in India where a three-year-old girl was found with seven needles in her body.
She was allegedly made a voodoo doll by a man practising black magic.
Use of needles and pins in voodooism is a practice that originated in Europe.
People used voodoo dolls to punish suspected witches with the aim of inflicting harm on the witch and breaking their bewitchment. The practice started as early as the 1900s as a way to either invoke good or bad luck on a specific person.
According to a local witch doctor, who sought anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, admitted that some people come to him to have needles inserted in them so that they can get rich or find love.
He adds that he has performed the act on some of his clients and some of them have become either rich or got what they asked for including, finding a love partner. He, however, clarified that they do not do it on children.
“The needles are available and they are put inside your body for a day. But before they are inserted, you have to be washed. One has to pay Sh5,000 as commitment fee before starting the process,” said the witch doctor, adding that an alternative to the needle would be the magic ring.
A report from the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research seems to collaborate these assertions. The report says Susuk or charm needles are facial-cum-body art widely practiced among women in Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.
The small, needle-shaped metallic talismans are inserted subcutaneously in different parts of the body. In the first case the researchers investigated was of a 32-year-old woman who was brought to hospital with pain in the right mandibular molar teeth. There was no history of any dental or oral treatment done.
A radiograph test was carried out and two needles were found embedded in her mouth. The report says it is difficult to discover the charm needles as the wearer keeps the body art a hidden secret and, therefore,only an X-ray can discover them. After repeated questioning the woman admitted having the needles implanted there six years ago.
In another case a 50-year-old Malay man with grossly decayed teeth had needles in his mouth. The report concluded that this practice of implanting Susuk in the subcutaneous tissues is a common practice in Southeast Asian countries but rare in other parts of the globe.
Acupuncture, a practice that involves penetration of the skin by thin, solid, metallic needles could be another way a needle could accidentally get into the body. The process uses needles to stimulate the nerve and treat various ailments. It can be traced back to at least 2,500 years ago.
But Dr Arvind Pathak, director and Private Practice at Naturopathy and Yoga Centre says it is impossible for the needles used in acupuncture to be left embedded in the body. He added that once the needles have been used they are thrown away.
“If the needle is one inch or two inches, it is inserted halfway into the skin. It is placed on the meridians or channels, since the body has 14 channels,” he says.
Dr James Ndirangu, a general practitioner, says it is possible for the needle to go unnoticed if the person inserting the needle is not the child. He added that there are explanations as to why the needles may end up being inserted in the child’s body.
“Child abuse is one of the reasons a needle may be inserted in the child. The guardian may either pierce the child while beating him or her or either burn them,”he says. Another way the needle may get inside a child’s body is if the person left to care for the child has a psychiatric condition.
The person may insert sharp objects or make the child swallow objects. In some cases, when a single mother is getting into another relationship or was not ready to have a child, they may resort to harming their babies.
“In such cases it is difficult to establish the truth. This is because the people under psychiatric condition will not be able to admit”, he says.