The Price of a Baby

Photo by Sally Hayden/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Shockingly, there are several types of people you can buy a baby from in Nairobi, Kenya — corrupt officials, street snatchers preying on vulnerable women, or mothers themselves giving birth in clinics running a black-market trade in babies. These disturbing facts were found out by investigative journalists working for Africa Eye — a documentary strand from the BBC focusing on Africa. Peter Murimi, Joel Gunter, and Tom Watson also detailed these findings in an article on the BBC website — and with no reliable statistics on child trafficking in Kenya, this exposure is of vital importance.

Over the course of a year-long investigation, Africa Eye has found evidence of children being snatched from homeless mothers and sold for massive profits. We uncovered illegal child trafficking in street clinics and babies being stolen to order at a major government-run hospital. And in an effort to expose those abusing government positions, we arranged to purchase an abandoned child from a hospital official, who used legitimate paperwork to take custody of a two-week old boy before selling him directly to us.

The baby-stealers range from vulnerable opportunists to organised criminals — often both elements working together. Among the opportunists are women like Anita, a heavy drinker and drug user who herself lives on and off the street, and makes money stealing children from women like Rebecca — targeting mothers with infants under the age of three.

Africa Eye found out about Anita through a friend of hers, who wanted to remain anonymous. The friend, who asked to be called Emma, said Anita had different methods for snatching children on the street.

“Sometimes she will speak to the mother first, to try and see if the mother knows what she plans to do,” Emma said. “Sometimes she will drug the mother, give her sleeping pills or glue. Sometimes she will play with the kid.

“Anita has a lot of ways to get kids.”

This raises the question of how there is a market for stolen children. Yet, incredibly, there is — and the sellers do not seem too concerned about who the buyers actually are.

Some of the customers were “women who are barren, so for them this is a kind of adoption,” she said, but “some use them for sacrifices”.

“Yes, they are used for sacrifices. These children just disappear from the streets and they are never seen again.”

That dark hint echoed something Emma had already told us, that Anita said some buyers “take the kids for rituals”.

In reality, once Anita has sold a child on, she knows little about their fate. She sells them to the businesswoman for 50,000 shillings for a girl or 80,000 shillings for a boy, she said — £350 or £550. That is roughly the going rate in Nairobi to steal a child from a woman on the street.

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