In a bid to fend for her four children, Nansubuga had taken her mother's offer to work at a food joint. Little did she know that her decision, though it brought bread to the table, would be the beginning of the end of her life.
Police women in the country recently came out to support the international campaign of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender- Based Violence that started on November 25 and ends on December 10. The message is to act now to end domestic violence and child abuse.
According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2011, about 56% of women, especially from the age of 15 have suffered physical violence. In some instances, the victims have even died.
The late 25-year-old Melissa Nansubuga is a recent example. Her death left her four young children aged between two and eight helpless. Nansubuga had started working at a food joint in Nansana to fend for her family. Before that, Nansubuga's children recall how they would wait in vain for their father, Enock Kizito, a taxi driver at Nansana stage, to bring food.
At school, they were always being sent home for non-payment of fees. Nansubuga's mother, Percy Nakamya, a food vendor at Nansana trading centre, narrates the family's woes:
Nansubuga was my first born child. She got pregnant while she was in P7. I talked to the man responsible about keeping the baby so that she could continue with school, but he promised to take care of her.
He suggested that she breastfeeds first as he planned to take her back to school. But before long, she was pregnant with yet another child. By the time of her death on October 24 this year, she had had four children and had never gone back to school.
As a house wife, Nansubuga suffered a lot. Kizito would not give her money for food and rent. Four years ago, I suggested she takes over my food business in order to sustain her family. She did and it run so successfully that she began to make enough money to sustain her family and even me.
Kizito started to complain about Nansubuga leaving work late, but she explained that she had to prepare for the following day's work before closing.
On October 6, I received a call from someone around 9:00pm that Nansubuga had been burnt with acid and had been rushed to Namungoona Health Centre and later Mulago Hospital. As I rushed to Mulago, I called Kizito, informing him about what had happened.
He told me to go ahead of him as he was still far away. When I saw Nansubuga, I fainted, but gained consciousness a few minutes later.
With my mouth open in shock and tears running down my face, I listened as she narrated how her husband held her blouse tightly around her neck and forced her to drink acid.
He was being assisted by a man in an overcoat, who held her head in place from behind. She said Kizitoand this man had waylaid her on her way back home, after he had called her many times asking where she was and what time she would be home.
When he finally appeared at the hospital at around 4:00am, I passed out again. When I regained consciousness, he had gone, but I was told he also had acid burns on his hands and kept holding a handkerchief over one of his eyes. He never came back to check on us and switched off his phone.
The following day, Nansubuga's tongue was so swollen, she could not talk and resorted to sign language. She, however, improved with time and managed to talk again, although half of her face had been eaten away by the acid. Even on October 24, the day she died, she could still talk.
It was only after she died that I realised how strong she had been. Because she was in bandages, it was hard to tell that her breasts had rotted away and were full of pus.
Kizito attempts escape
The following day, unknown people opened the couple's home to remove house property. They said Kizito, who had travelled somewhere, had given them the keys and asked them to take all the property to his parents in Luwero, but the landlord did not let them.
The Police were called and the men led them to where Kizito had been admitted and was receiving treatment for his burns. He, however, still denies being involved in Nansubuga's death.
Nansubuga's mother, Percy Nakamya with her orphaned grand children at her home in Nansana
According to the children, their father came home late in the evening, with another man, both putting on overcoats. He was holding a bottle. He removed a plastic cup from the cupboard and went out, locking them inside the house.
By 9:00pm, their mother had not returned home. It was not until curious neighbours opened the door that the children learnt of the acid attack.
They are still traumatised, especially the one who looks like their father. She cries bitterly when a comment is made about her resemblance to him.
A relative narrates that the Police arrested Kizito from Wakiso Health Centre, where he had been admitted and was recieving treatment for acid burns on his hands and one of his eyes.
He claimed someone had attacked him with acid, but was not willing to reveal where the incident had taken place. The Police first took him to Wakiso Police Station for three days, then later to Sentema Prison. He is currently remanded at Kigo Prison.
Formerly, the case was being heard by a the Wakiso Court Magistrate as a case of attempted murder, but after Nansubuga's death, it was referred to the High Court as a murder case.
However, many victims of acid attack cases end up abandoning them (the cases) at the Police station, because of the way the cases are handled.
"They make the victims move up and down many times, while insisting that their cases do not have much evidence to support them in court," a relative commented, adding that most times, there is no money to fund the Police's movements, as the family has to care for the acid attack victim and buy expensive treatment drugs. Besides, the victim is too weak to frequent the Police Station.
Acid victim visits Nansubuga
"When I first saw her after the attack, my immediate prayer was for God to rest her in peace" Hanifa Nakiryowa narrates. I could imagine the kind of hell she was going through just by the extent of her acid burns. She had been badly burnt all over her chest and breasts. One side of her face had completely melted away and she was feeding through tubes.
Nakiryowa is an acid attack survivor, who stood by Nansubuga
A month later, I saw her still in the intensive care unit. Despite the severe burns she had sustained and the delicate condition she was in; all bandaged up and still feeding through tubes, one could notice the will to live on her face. This motivated me to join her in the fight. We had something in common - our injuries.
I would visit her in hospital on a weekly basis. I shared my different phases of recovery with her. Looking at my photos at the different stages seemed to give her more strength to soldier on.
She developed a positive attitude despite the pain. Her mum kept encouraging her all through until the time came to start the operations on her. We kept on encouraging her to look forward to those operations positively which she did. She was very eager to go through it all and see herself out of hospital.
After the first operation (skin grafting), she endured severe pain all over her body, from the burnt part to the donor sites of her body, where the skin to cover the wounds was got.
When I was recovering, I bought the most powerful antibiotics (clindamycin) to help prevent my wounds, both the grafted ones and the donor site from becoming infected. The medicine is very effective, but expensive. It cost sh255,000 for three bottles of njection daily for seven days. It is also painful on administration.
Nansubuga did not have this medication, so her wounds got an infection, which prevented the grafts on her chest from healing well and also the donor sites. This worsened the pain.
The contractures on her face had stiffened her eye muscles so much that she could no longer close her eyes while asleep. When I went to see her one Monday morning at the end of October, I thought she was awake.
But after calling her several times, I noticed she was asleep, but could no longer close her eyelids. I broke down. When she finally woke up, she cried out to me in pain. I tried comforting her, but I was also down myself.
Two days later, I got a call. Nansubuga had died. Acid burns leave permanent emotional, psychological and physical pain to both the direct and indirect victims. It is so shocking and disheartening to watch your body parts fall off while you are alive.
Some parts of my nose fell off and my lips melted away as I watched. My cornea started melting out, which threatened loss of the whole eye. Nansubuga watched her eye lids melt off and her breasts rot away slowly. This is the most traumatising stage of all.
According to doctors, nothing can be done to stop this. As a result, for many who cannot contain it, when natural death does not come, this is the stage at which they commit suicide. It is tragic that she had to leave behind four children, including a one-and-a-half-year-old in the care of her ageing mother. No body should have to go through this.