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ICRC vice-president visits Kenya

27-07-2009 Feature

ICRC Vice-President Christine Beerli concluded on 8 July a five-day tour of Red Cross projects in Kenya's Moyale, Upper Eastern and North Rift areas during which she had the opportunity to discuss the humanitarian situation with aid recipients and regional authorities. ICRC's Anne Mucheke reports.

   

©ICRC / J. Murimi / KE-E-00236    
 
Moyale. Vice President Beerli speaks to a villager involved in the cash-for-work project as Abdinoor Mohammed of the Kenya Red Cross looks on.    
     

In the North Rift, Ms Beerli visited formerly displaced families who had rebuilt their houses, which had been destroyed during the 2008 post-election violence, with financial assistance from the Kenya Red Cross Society. The reconstruction was carried out jointly by the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities after the Kenya Red Cross prevailed upon them to work together in the spirit of reconciliation. These were the two ethnic groups primarily involved in the violence in the North Rift, which saw hundreds killed and wounded and thousands displaced from their homes.

'' It is uplifting to see the Kenya Red Cross working with these communities and encouraging them to become reconciled after what happened,'' said Ms Beerli after her visit to Eldoret. The ICRC worked in partnership with the Kenya Red Cross at the height of the violence, helping to provide food, medical care and access to clean water. In addition, the organizations worked together to reunite families that had been thrust apart.

In the village of Hadesa, in Moyale, the community is engaged in farm-clearing and terracing activities as part of a cash-for-work initiative supported by the ICRC. Most of the farms were abandoned and went wild when their owners fled the village in search of safety during clashes between communities. Many villagers have returned to their farms and are now preparing for the planting season.

Nearby, a local women's association is building gulleys to conserve the soil. According to the association's chairperson, the soil conservation initiative " will help us preserve the good soil from harmful effects when it rains. In addition, the money we receive for our labour enables us to buy food and clothes for our families.''

 

 
©ICRC / F. Grimm / KE-E-00238    
 
Karburi village, Moyale. Women involved in soil conservation efforts join in a song when ICRC Vice President Beerli toured the area. 
    Hadesa is situated in an arid region beset by cross-border conflict, often over basic resources such as pasture land or water. Residents choose the kind of projects they are interested in, and appoint leaders who work closely with the Red Cross to implement them. Ms Beerli commended the communities on their eagerness to take responsibility for the work.

The vice-president also visited Latake primary school in Moyale, where the ICRC has improved water-catchment facilities. The organization repaired gutters on the school's roof and installed two cement tanks which harvest rainwater.

The headmaster described the challenges the school had been facing and the improvements that have been made since the Red Cross stepped in to help.'' The schoolchildren used to carry large quantities of water, which we needed to cook their meals, from their homes to our school. As a result, they would often arrive late or not at all,'' he said.'' Now we are lucky because we get water straight from the tanks and less time is lost. There are also fewer cases of water-borne disease, as the children can maintain proper hygiene.''

The ICRC vice-president also visited Kenya Red Cross offices, where she and Kenya Red Cross Secretary-General Abbas Gullet discussed the various challenges and opportunities the National Society is facing. Ms Beerli assured the Kenya Red Cross of the ICRC's co ntinuing support.