Global perspective Human stories

Kenya: UN reports sharp deterioration in security, humanitarian situation

Kenya: UN reports sharp deterioration in security, humanitarian situation

Workers unload food aid flown to Nairobi by UN agency
The post-electoral crisis in Kenya has taken a sharp turn for the worse in recent days with violence claiming many more lives and hampering relief efforts by United Nations agencies and their partners, further worsening an already dire situation.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at least 19 people had been killed in Naivasha on Sunday and 12 people had been killed in Nakuru yesterday, following violent massacres and the torching of houses.

Nearly 700 people are believed to have been killed in the violence, which first began a few weeks ago after Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner over opposition leader Raila Odinga in December elections. The crisis has also forced some 255,000 to flee their homes.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in Kigali earlier today that he was deeply concerned by the situation in Kenya, the mounting death toll, and the ethnic clashes.

Responding to questions in a joint press conference with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Mr. Ban said he discussed the situation this morning by telephone with former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is leading the mediation effort in Kenya as part of the African Union (AU) Panel of Eminent Personalities.

The Secretary-General added that he is going to meet tomorrow on recent developments in Kenya with African leaders gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the AU summit.

On the humanitarian front, the worsening security situation has hindered the efforts of UN agencies and their partners to assist those affected. While the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is continuing to distribute food to displaced Kenyans and slum dwellers, the agency yesterday cancelled a new round of food distribution in the shantytowns surrounding the capital of Nairobi because of security concerns.

The distribution, which began last Thursday, was targeting over 73,000 people in 13 sites around Nairobi, but only 32,400 had received aid before the distribution was stopped. WFP’s Christiane Berthiaume said the situation was “grave” in the shantytowns as most people had lost their houses as well as their work.

The agency is facing a similar situation in the Rift Valley Province, where a planned food distribution to IDPs that began on Friday was also interrupted. Insecurity was also threatening the transport of food supplies, with truck drivers refusing to leave Mombasa. WFP is hoping to get security escorts for its supply convoys.

There is increasing concern about the toll the violence is taking on women and children. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that between 80,000 and 100,000 children were now in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Spokesperson Veronique Taveau told a press briefing in Geneva that despite a bad sanitary situation and a lack of clean drinking water in the camps, it was harder and harder for UNICEF teams to move about the country and to deliver emergency aid.

Some schools had been able to open, and some had been set up in tents in the IDP camps, but children were not safe from the violence even there, she said, noting that schoolchildren had had to flee a temporary school in one of the camps yesterday after threats by a group of youths wielding machetes.

UNICEF also reports increasing cases of sexual violence. Recently, a UNICEF protection team at a camp in the Northern Rift Valley was interviewing young women who had been raped, when a group of over a dozen men appeared, threatening the women that if they continued to testify, they and their children would be subjected to renewed sexual violence.

A UNICEF representative, who reported the incident to the camp security authorities, was told “there is nothing going on in the camp. Everything is fine.”

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the worsening security situation in various parts of Kenya’s Rift Valley province has hindered access to IDPs. Yesterday, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) called off a planned evacuation of up to 400 people from Timboroa, an area some 60 kilometres from the town of Eldoret, where some 11,000 fresh IDPs have fled following weekend attacks on their homes.

“UNHCR had expected to work with IOM and other agencies to register IDPs wishing to leave the area and explain to them their options regarding evacuation,” UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters. He added that a similar evacuation of IDPs from Naivasha was also shelved for now owing to the security situation.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Uganda, where some 6,500 Kenyans have fled since the violence first erupted a month ago, the agency and its partners are continuing to relocate refugees away from border areas to a transit centre further inland in Mulanda. UNHCR is transferring relief supplies to the new transit centre, and refugees in Mulanda have been registered and provided ration cards for food, basic household commodities and other services, as well as a tent for each family.