UN grants $7 million to assist Kenyan victims of post-electoral violence

UN grants $7 million to assist Kenyan victims of post-electoral violence

John Holmes, USG for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator
The United Nations has authorized $7 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support relief efforts in the aftermath of the post-electoral violence that tore through Kenya last week resulting in the displacement of some 255,000 people.

The United Nations has authorized $7 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support relief efforts in the aftermath of the post-electoral violence that tore through Kenya last week resulting in the displacement of some 255,000 people.

This initial allocation from the landmark Fund, designed to make resources available quickly for relief operations, will enable UN agencies on the ground to provide vital aid in the areas of food, health, shelter, water and sanitation to those affected by the violence, which reportedly has killed some 350 people, that erupted after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner in the recent election.

UN agencies in the country have been working with the Kenya Red Cross Society, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and faith-based groups to address the most urgent needs.

The humanitarian consequences of the post-electoral violence were “pretty severe,” not only terms of the number of people killed and injured but also in terms of people being displaced from their homes, the UN’s top aid official told reporters in New York.

“The best estimate we have at the moment is an official Government figure of 255,000 people having been displaced from their homes in the course of that violence,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes.

“We also estimated that up to 500,000 people altogether may be in need of some assistance over the next weeks and months,” he added, noting that one of the difficulties in assessing the scale of the problem is that people are still moving around, including a “steady trickle” of people crossing out of Kenya.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is continuing to monitor the situation in Uganda, where thousands of people from Kenya have taken refuge. The agency reports that some 3,400 people have so far been registered by the Ugandan Red Cross and more are continuing to arrive.

Many of the refugees have camped in schools that are set to re-open for a new school year at the beginning of February, and UNHCR is working with the Ugandan Government to find alternative accommodations. The agency has also made available relief supplies for roughly 100,000 people in Kenya.

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that, in a situation that is far more reminiscent of northern Uganda than Kenya, many people in different parts of the country are going to police stations to sleep for the night for fear of attack.

“While they go to their homes or to work during the daytime they do not feel safe enough to sleep in their own beds at night,” UNICEF’s Sara Cameron told reporters in Nairobi, adding that about 1,000 people slept at Tigoni police station the other night.

The agency is also very concerned about the impact of the recent crisis on Kenya’s children, at least 100,000 of whom are believed to have been displaced. “We know from experience in many countries that fear can have lasting damaging effects on children,” Ms. Cameron said, noting that effects include bedwetting, withdrawal, bad behaviour and difficulty concentrating at school. “We must expect and prepare to respond to the confusion that many children will feel because of this crisis.”

She noted that with the right support children can quickly bounce back and recover from trauma. “The best news for children though will of course be an end to aggression and the brutal discrimination and prejudices which far too many have witnessed recently,” she added.

With regard to the impact of the crisis on Kenya’s environment, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) today noted that the country’s transport system is not currently running at 100 per cent, which may be compromising waste collection.

“The build up of wastes raises serious public health concerns as a result of increased levels of pests and risks to the local environment including river systems and water supplies as a result of leakages and the clogging of sewers,” UNEP spokesperson Nick Nuttall warned.

The Nairobi-based agency is monitoring the environmental situation in the country. “While there is likely to be little or no significant environmental impact as a result of the current crisis, impacts on areas such as forests, wildlife and water quality cannot be ruled out if the situation persists and significant numbers of people remain displaced over the medium to long term,” he said.

Mr. Nuttall warned that this damage “would in the end exacerbate the loss of livelihoods and the humanitarian situation.”