Princess Marina Hospital in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoH&W) held a mass burial of 19 unidentified bodies at Ledumang last week.
The bodies had been unidentified since last year at the hospital mortuary. They were laid to rest at Ledumang cemeteries on Friday morning.
The 19 corpses comprised three adults and 16 children. The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Madigele who was amongst the gathering that came to pay their last respects to the deceased, said most of the children who were buried that day were stillborn babies abandoned by their mothers upon death. Most of those deceased children’s mothers were said to be foreigners who stayed in the country illegally. “The adults have not been identified. It’s very important that we know where our relatives are. We decided to bury the bodies after relatives did not come forward to claim them therefore congesting the hospital mortuary,” he said.
Madigele explained that before deciding to bury the corpses, they worked tirelessly with the Botswana Police Service (BPS) to help identify the deceased but their efforts were futile.
He said going forward, they would employ more techniques or establish DNA banks that could help them identify individuals in such situations. Madigele also said in case one of the families of the buried unidentified bodies came forward to claim the corpse of their loved one with intent to
He also pointed out that it was hard to identify most of the corpses, as they did not have identity cards on them.
The hospital’s chief communications and public relations officer, Donnell Kutlapye said the deceased have not been claimed nor identified since 2018.
He explained that some of the babies were from foreign nationals who did not have proper identification documents during delivery, but had to be assisted as they were emergency cases. “After birth some parents absconded from the hospital and abandoned the dead babies. The three adult bodies are of unknown patients who were also admitted in the hospital,” he said. “The corpses remained in the hospital mortuary for a long time and some of them are in a bad state hence we sought permission from the Gaborone district commissioner to bury them.”
He added that continuous storage of unclaimed and unknown corpses congested the Marina mortuary.
Kutlapye also urged the public to know the whereabouts of their relatives at all times and to honour requests by the BPS to view the deceased and unknown corpses. He also thanked Gaborone City Council for availing all 19 coffins and the cemetery for the burial.