Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How I lost my sight from bomb blasts

At first, it was all about the number of the deceased, houses destroyed, injuries sustained and the compensation that caught the media attention. However, as time progress, news about victims that have been left with total blindness and some developing prostate cancer resulting from Mbagala military barracks bomb blasts have started to resurface. Juma Ngogo (71) a Mbagala Kuu resident became visually impaired after the 2009 Mbagala military blasts that left 29 people dead with more than 300 injuries.  He is one amongst the victims The Guardian exclusively interviewed during a recent demonstration by the bomb blasts victims at Mbagala Kuu in Dar es Salaam. He can only walk with the help of his grandson. Such victims’ lives have been turned upside down. The smoke resulting from bomb blasts falling on their houses have left them dependants, beggars and unable to lead a normal life they used to have.  “I heard a huge sound of an explosion and smoke billowing out of my house; I couldn’t wait but rush inside to save my sickly sleeping young child. Little had I known that the smoke could endanger my sight. It however took me two months after the blasts that I started feeling like eye infections and internal pain before rushing to hospital for medical checkup” he said. He said that doctors at  Vikindu Mission Hospital in Mkuranga district and Tabata Hospital in the city failed to diagnose anything due to lack of equipments and later visited the Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT), a disability hospital located at Msasani, Dar es Salaam where doctors confirmed that the blindness resulted from the bomb blasts. Doctors said failure to immediately wash his eyes with cold water after the blasts caused the chemicals from the smoke to form an opaque like layer in his eyes leading to loss of sight. Military experts also told him that a bomb that fell around his compound failing to detonate had produced dangerous smoke that affected his eyes leading him to becoming blind. The explosion also pulled down his entire five bedroom house roof. He said on the fateful day, as he was sitting outside his house, he witnessed two explosions from the nearby military barracks with a third one razing his entire house roof.  “It was commotion, people running in opposite direction, with many losing their relatives, friends, and children.  He has so far spent Sh350, 000 in admission and Sh140, 000 for medication while also undergoing a minor operation at the cost of Sh80,000. “Doctors said the chemicals from undetonated bomb had created an opaque layer that affected my vision.May be if I had undergone a major operation at a cost of Sh500, 000 as per the specialist claim at CCBRT,

Juma Seif Ngogo, among the 86 victims who has lost his sight due to Mbagala bomb blasts.

I could have saved my sight, he said adding that at that time he could not manage to raise that amount, because he nearly lost everything after the blasts. The government has so far paid him Sh233, 000 in compensation for the destroyed roof. He is now one amongst the committee members formed in the area demanding for an additional compensation payment.  Ngogo a resident of Mbagala Kuu in the city, and former employee of the defunct National Shipping Agency (NASACO) said President Jakaya Kikwete need to assist them and ensure that the review of their payments is made to allow them get a fair compensation. Their committee is mandated to ensure that the review of the compensation is done in order to ensure that all the victims’ rights are met. Ramadhani Mbamba (64) is one amongst vision impaired Mbagala Kuu bomb blasts victims, also with a vision problem. He says the smoke from the blasts that had hit his house led to his disorderly and sustaining a fractured leg. On the fateful day, Mbamba said he was selling cooking utensils around his residential area where he experienced smoke blasts that affected his sight. According to him, it took six months for him to start feeling pain and undergoing an operation at the CCBRT hospital at the cost of Sh110,000. “The operation did little to save my sight”, he says. Other vision impaired victims resulting from bomb blasts include, Mwajabu Ally, Mariam Kambi, and Athuman Mkagi. They all reside at Mbagala Kuu area in Dar es Salaam. Steven Gimonge (75) is one amongst the victims claiming to be suffering from prostate cancer resulting from the blasts. The surgery for the lethal disease could cost him more than Sh3million. He is now under a 30 tablets Cassotide medication that is costing him Sh500,000 for a single dose. Gimonge, the Chairperson of the compensation committee said it is very sad that the government had to pay some victims a mere Sh1,950 in compensation for their destroyed properties. “This amount can hardly buy a packet of sugar” he says. He said that “medical checkup was not a priority for the disaster management team after the incident, their priority was so save lives and attend to injuries, and we were later told that doctors would be here on daily basis but no one turned up” Officials tasked to make the valuation for our compensation also miscalculated the value of the destroyed properties especially houses carrying out evaluation exercises in absence of house owners that led to minimal payments. The however said that the Disaster Management Department under the Prime Minister’s Office is yet to be reached for their claims.  Gimonge said all the victims will soon meet the disaster management department to air out their grievances where all their medical certificates indicating the cause of their diseases will be presented. More than hundred residents are still pressing the government to reevaluate their compensation claiming that the high-level probe committee comprising national security and police personnel failed to do their work. The incident at Mbagala military blasts was the first such scene to take place in the country followed by the Gongolamboto military base blasts that killed 22 people.

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