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Kenya: displaced families rely on aid after homes are destroyed

14-01-2008 Feature

The violence in Kenya has killed hundreds of people and forced an estimated quarter of a million from their homes in the Rift Valley region. Many have gathered at public sites where they are surviving on hand-outs. The ICRC's Anne Mucheke reports.

 
   
  ©ICRC/Bernard Barrett / KE-E-00151    
 
Displaced people line up for breakfast at the Showground Camp in Nakuru    
     
 
   
  ©ICRC/Bernard Barrett / KE-E-00155    
 
  A mother waits with her son and daughter at the Showground Camp for IDPs in Nakuru    
     
 
   
  ©ICRC/Bernard Barrett / KE-E-00156    
 
Evans Nyagundi and his son at the Apostolic Church Camp in Molo    
     
 
  

The public address system blares loudly, naming a lost boy whose parents are looking for him. In a queue not far away, hundreds of young children are jostling and shoving in line, waiting for a cup of porridge and some slices of bread for breakfast, served by volunteers.

This is the Nakuru showground, an improvised camp where more than 2,000 displaced people are relying on charity for food and clothing. Many of them are embarrassed at having to queue for daily rations while the crops in their farms, due to be harvested, continue to rot.

Keziah Wanjiku (35) sits nearby feeding her children: a three-year-old girl and a baby of six months.'' I came on Friday after we were chased away by people who burned our houses and stole everything we had. I just saved the children and came this way looking for assistance.''

Keziah is among thousands of Kenyans displaced from the Rift Valley due to post-election violence. They came in truckloads to the showground having lost their homes and, in some cases, their loved ones.

 Births at the showground  

Outside the showground, a team of Kenya Red Cross (KRCS) volunteers rummage through clothes donated to the displaced, looking for items to fit newborn babies; four have been born in the past two days.

There is enough food for the victims here, being near a town centre. To supplement the efforts of the Red Cross, local businesses donate food and clothes, a supermarket gives bread. The situation is fluid, as those with relatives living in the town move off the site to live with them – but more trucks bring newcomers each day.

In Molo, about 70 kilometres away, 400 families are camping at a manufacturing compound, waiting for food distributions.

Mary Nyambura cooks a lunch of cabbage as she picks the chaff from the rice. Her daughter stands beside her, waiting. Like others, she had a home but had to flee because of the ongoing violence.

" We came here because after we voted, houses in our village started to be burned that night, " she says. " We slept outside and the following Monday morning we came here. We did not take anything, except the children. When we came here they welcomed us, told us to stay here until peace returns.''

 Victims of a land dispute  

Not far away, another displaced group is staying at a church compound. But many of these were here long before the elections, having been chased from their homes because of a land dispute.

'' We left Keringet and have been here since early December. I came with my family, my father, mother and my children. When the violence began we were unprepared, it just started suddenly. They began chasing us, beating others and looting property. I never got a chance to collect any of my belongings,'' says 30-year old Evans Nyagundi.

Evans is uncertain about the future and does not know whether they will ever go back to the place he used to call home.

'' I am now appealing to the government to help us because we have no means and we do not know how we will continue living. I do not see how I will return to the place where I used to work or how I can go on with the work I used to do,'' he says.

Today, the ICRC has stepped in to build toilets and is installing water bladder s for storage and tap stands to enable them collect water faster. The organisation is also working together with the KRCS to distribute food and essential household items to those in need throughout the region.

ICRC tracing teams are supporting the KRCS in Nakuru and Molo areas, helping to re-establish contact with families separated by the events. Particular focus is placed on trying to reunite children with their families, as they are amongst the most vulnerable of the groups.