Saturday, January 12, 2008

Kenya: Rising death toll -Ban Ki-moon calls for urgent solution

With the death toll from Kenya’s post-election violence now at 500, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged the country’s leaders to quickly resolve the political crisis.

“In the face of the deeply troubling situation in Kenya, the Secretary-General calls once again on the political leadership of Kenya to find – urgently – an acceptable solution through dialogue so that the political crisis is resolved and the country returns to its peaceful and democratic path,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.

In addition to those killed, the UN estimates that more than 250,000 Kenyans have been forced to flee their homes since violence erupted in the East African nation following last month’s disputed national elections, “the conduct of which prompted serious concerns on the part of national and international observers.”

The statement added that it is “worrisome” that much of the violence appears to have been directed at specific communities. “The killings must stop, alleged human rights violations should be investigated and those found responsible for crimes should be held accountable for their actions.”

Mr. Ban also expressed continued support for the various efforts being made by regional and international actors to help the Kenyans arrive at a lasting solution. He spoke yesterday to former UN chief Kofi Annan, who is head of a panel of eminent Africans to mediate the crisis in Kenya, as announced by President John Kufuor of Ghana.

Meanwhile, UN agencies are continuing their humanitarian response, along with the Kenya Red Cross Society, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and faith-based groups.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has expressed particular concern about the increase in gender-based violence, especially sexual and physical assault, in the aftermath of recent events.

“Rape has been occurring and cases have increased following the post-election violence,” UNFPA’s Florence Gachanja told reporters in Nairobi today, adding that the Nairobi Women’s Hospital has reported 56 cases in the last 10 days and cases are increasing every day.

In addition, expectant women are giving birth in the camps set up for internally displaced persons (IDPs). UNFPA has delivered post-rape, clean delivery and midwifery kits and other materials to the Kenya Red Cross for re-distribution in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Nairobi Women’s Hospital and other local organizations.

In the Northern Rift Valley and Nairobi’s slums, which were both hit by the recent post-election violence, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has delivered some 11,000 family relief kits – containing tarpaulins, blankets, cooking utensils, jerry cans and soap – for some 55,000 IDPs. It has also sent six trucks loaded with water and sanitation supplies and 1,500 HIV treatment units to the town of Eldoret.

The agency is also documenting the voices of children and youth affected by the current crisis. “Allowing children to speak out will help them to come to terms with what has happened to them and start the healing process,” UNICEF’s Pamela Sittoni said.

“It will also help adults, including parents, guardians and teachers, to understand how the violence and displacement are affecting children, as they try to help the children cope with the situation,” she added. UNICEF hopes to partner with the Kenyan media to publish the children’s voices in their publications.

Source: UN News Centre