By Maina Waruru, Nairobi, Sep 26 IANS | 1 year ago

Members of Kenya's Indian community are emerging as heroes of last Saturday's terrorist attack at a Nairobi mall they frequent in large numbers, with their institutions and individuals providing critical emergency assistance at one of the darkest moments in the east African nation's history.


Institutions owned and operated by the community, including the MP Shah Hospital, and the Aga Khan and Guru Nanak hospitals -- all located less than one kilometre from the ill-fated Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, are treating scores of the injured admitted there.

With all the three premier medical facilities located in the Parklands area of the city, an area traditionally dominated by generations of Indians, the institutions battled against time to save scores of lives.

Individual Asians, including elderly women and young girl volunteers, tirelessly provided food and refreshments to journalists covering the siege and the security forces battling the attackers in one of the greatest acts of solidarity with the rest of the country in times of adversity.

Indian-led charities, including those of the Oswal community, and the Indian-dominated Lions Club rose to the occasion during the agonising siege making all manner of donations and providing supplies to Kenyan soldiers and volunteers as part of the rescue operation.

The charities also mobilised hundreds of their members to join well-wishers in donating blood, something that was priceless at the time.

Images captured on television and print media showed some members of the community caught in the melee that followed soon after the raid, directing evacuation and rescue operations, a few minutes before the Somalia-based Al Shabaab terrorists took control of the shopping centre.

However, it is perhaps the act by the management of the MP Shah Hospital to waive all medical bills for victims treated at the hospital that caught the country's attention.

The hospital, through chairman Majud Shah, announced Wednesday that it would not be charging any fee for all the care offered to victims, including surgery done to remove bullets lodged in delicate body parts.

"This hospital, while appreciating whatever support it can receive from well-wishers, will not charge for services to victims numbering more than 40 or charge for any of the 19 bodies received at its mortuary," announced the chairman.

The waiver implies that the facility will forgo more than USD 5,000 in fees it would have levied on the victims, money it badly needs being one of the hospitals with top facilities in Kenya and which handles some of the most complicated cases.

The attack that lasted four days left at least 61 civilians and six security personnel dead.

In New Delhi, India's external affairs ministry said four Indian nationals were among those killed.

They are Jyotibala Dharmesh Vaya from Junagadh in Gujarat, Sridhar Natarajan, 40, an employee of a local pharmaceutical firm Harley's Limited who belonged to Tamil Nadu, Paramshu Jain, 8, son of Manoj Jain, the branch manager of Industrial Area Branch, Bank of Baroda (Kenya Limited), and Sudharshan B. Nagaraj of Bangalore, who was in the book trade and had arrived in Nairobi Sep 20 in transit to Kampala and Accra.

However, dozens of Kenyan-Indians have also lost their lives, as well as businesses. Third generation Indians are dominant residents in the area where the mall is located.

In another development Thursday, Kenya's security forces heightened security along the country's border with Somalia after twin blasts killed three people, including two police officers.

The two police officers and a civilian were killed and six others injured in two simultaneous terrorist attacks in northern Kenya bordering the war-torn Somalia, Xinhua reported.

The twin attacks in Wajir and Mandera border towns, which occurred within eight hours of each other, also left 12 vehicles reduced to shreds of metal and government offices turned to heaps of rubble.

(Maina Waruru can be reached at mainawaruru@gmail.com)

(Posted on 26-09-2013)