Sunday, January 06, 2008

Kenya: Kenya "calm but tense," according to UN

Some of the thousands of people fleeing post-electoral violence in Kenya

The situation in much of Kenya remains "calm but tense," according to United Nations officials on the ground who are working with their humanitarian partners to aid those affected by the violence that erupted following last week's disputed polls.

The UN estimates that some 250,000 Kenyans have been displaced, and 350 reportedly killed, by the violence which erupted after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner in the recent election. In the wake of the crisis that followed, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on both President Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to resolve their issues through dialogue.

The UN Country Team in Kenya is working with the Kenya Red Cross Society and a number of national and international non-governmental organizations, as well as faith-based groups, to provide immediate humanitarian assistance.

The situation in the country is "calm but tense," according to UN security officials, who added that much of Nairobi appears to be returning to "near normalcy."

However, many of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) still fear for their safety and remain where they have found refugee, UN Resident Coordinator Elizabeth Lwanga told reporters in Nairobi today. The UN's focus right now is to "address the special needs of Kenyans who are displaced and who are in distress because of the crisis," she added.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food through the Kenya Red Cross for 100,000 people displaced in the Rift Valley. "However, there is a need for a systematic coordination of escorts of convoys with humanitarian supplies," Ms. Lwanga said. While Kenyan security forces have been escorting food convoys between depots and allowing the Kenya Red Cross to distribute it from there to those in need, she stressed that "the sustainability of this mode of operation is not guaranteed."

Meanwhile, WFP has been waiting at Mombasa, a major port for several countries in the region, with 30,000 metric tonnes of food, enough for 1.5 million people, for eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Somalia and Southern Sudan.

Some trucks left Mombasa but then were stranded due to insecurity on main roads and checkpoints set up by vigilantes in western Kenya. "At the moment we have not had a problem in food distribution but if this situation continues then food will not get delivered on time," said WFP's Peter Smerdon.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that about 5,000 Kenyans have fled to Uganda, and an unconfirmed number have also left for Tanzania. Some of those that crossed into Uganda are living in schools or churches, while others have been taken in by relatives.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) reports that many hospitals are in desperate need of medical supplies to treat trauma and injuries. "Supplies and staff are needed to treat victims of shooting, burning, beating, slashing and trampling," according to UNICEF's Sara Cameron. The agency is working to reduce malnutrition among the displaced in the worst-affected areas and setting up so-called "safe spaces" for displaced mothers and children. Furthermore, it is providing water and sanitation, as well as family kits, to up to 100,000 people.

Source: UN News Centre