A SIX-MONTH-OLD baby boy, Vossy Timotheus, stands to lose an eye after he was bitten by rats yesterday morning in Windhoek's Goreangab informal settlement.
The rats are allegedly kept as pets, and are bred by an uncle of the boy who lives on the same premises.
The boy's mother, Hambeleleni David (26), told The Namibian that she woke up to prepare the baby's milk at the neighbour's place.
She said she covered the baby with a blanket before leaving.
"I took a tin of milk and bottles to make the child formula at a neighbour's house so that when the baby wakes up, I would have made the bottles already".
"I had just started washing the bottles while the water was boiling, when I heard my brother's girlfriend calling me to come because the baby was crying. She told me to check on the child because she heard the child crying," she explained.
When she arrived, David saw rats running out of the blankets.
She then removed the covers, and saw that the baby's face was red.
David said someone from the area called the ambulance, which took them to the Katutura Intermediate Hospital.
There, the baby was given Panado before they were transported to the Windhoek Central Hospital.
David explained that this was not the first time this had happened.
She said baby Vossy was earlier this year also bitten on the nose by rats which had crept into his blanket when she had gone to fetch water.
David added that her brother first brought two rats for breeding some time ago, which has now grown to 13 rats on the premises.
"The first time I left the child on the bed sleeping when I went to fetch water. I covered him and left. When I came back, I found the child being 'eaten' by rats, and that time it was on the nose," she narrated.
David said she has no idea why her brother keeps the rats, and has already asked him several times to remove them from the premises, but with no success.
"I told him that the rats must get out. Look now how they bit the child," she stressed.
She said her brother does not feed the rats, which could explain their tendency to attack the baby. She has no other place to stay as she is unemployed, and she and Vossy's father also do not live together.
David, who also has a seven-year-old child, said she would lay a charge against her brother.
Ophthalmologist Dr Helena Ndume told The Namibian that the toddler would be operated on this morning to remove the eye from the socket.
"It is completely eaten out, so we have to clean the whole thing out," she said, adding that at a later stage, Vossy can get a prosthetic eye.
Ndume said he could not be operated on immediately since he has hydrocephalus, which is the build-up of fluid in the cavities deep within the brain.
The excess fluid increases the size of the ventricles, and puts pressure on the brain.
Ndume added that they needed a specialist anaesthetist to put him to sleep in order to operate on him.
"Since it involves the brain and the heart, you never know the complications of hydrocephalus. There might be other conditions, so you need a specialist anaesthetist to evaluate the child first to see if we can put the child to sleep," she explained.
The doctor also questioned why the brother is keeping rats in the house because they carry diseases.
"Rats are carriers of many diseases. We have hepatitis E and everything happening, and then you keep so many rats. Do you have permission to do that?" she questioned.
Namibian Police inspector general Sebastian Ndeitunga yesterday said he dispatched police officers to the house to investigate a possible case of child neglect.
However, he had not received any feedback from the police on their findings.
"It is unacceptable for a child that age to be kept in such conditions," he emphasised.
*This story was modified.