Family of Kenyan woman who died in Iraq last year buries banana stem to represent her body

Ruth Omugala, the deceased Kenyan whose body still lies in Iraq. [Photo NMG]

The family of a Kenyan lady whose died in Iraq in December 2019 and was never airlifted to Kenya four months later held a bizarre funeral ceremony in her home village.

The deceased, Ruth Omungala, 47, died on December 26, 2019. Reports indicate she died of malnutrition as her employer ill-treated her and also subjected her to physical abuse.

Her kin back in Kenya buried a banana stem on Saturday to represent her body. The banana stem was wrapped in a white lay at her father’s farm in Ingusi village, Mumias West constituency.

Joash Okulia, the deceased’s elder brother said the mock burial will cushion the family from being haunted by evils spirits.

“If we don’t do what tradition demands, the family could be haunted by her spirit. There is nothing else we can do for now,” he said.

Her mother, Emily Okulia (67) described the deceased as a kind-hearted person.

Omgungala worked in Nairobi as a house help before flying to Baghdad in late 2019 only to find a different world.

After falling sick, her agent in Iraq did not take her to the hospital. She had complained of vomiting and diarrhoea before her death.

One of her Kenyan workmates, Grace Makokha, said Omungala complained of vomiting and diarrhoea and died after her agent refused to take her to hospital.

“She requested her agent in Iraq for medical care which was poorly served and her condition continued to deteriorate each day,” Grace Makokha, one of her workmates in Iraq said according to Nairobi News.

Her family says they were not aware of her leaving Kenya for Iraq.

“My sister lived in Nairobi and worked as a nanny. She also did other odd jobs. We were shocked when we learned she had travelled to Baghdad and died after falling sick,” Joash Okulia, the deceased’s brother said.

Back in Baghdad, her employer had asked the family to be allowed to bury the body there to save them costs of airlifting the body but they declined.

Her agent only identified as Ali told the family that the body would be airlifted after Christmas but this is yet to happen four months later.

The family sought the intervention of the Foreign Affairs Ministry through a lawyer who they paid Sh60,000 but nothing happened since January.