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Kenya: ensuring proper water supply for the displaced

15-01-2008 Feature

Thousands of people who fled their homes following the violence in Kenya are now at risk of not having sufficient access to clean water. The ICRC and Kenya Red Cross (KRCS) are teaming up to rectify the situation in central Rift Valley. Bernard Barrett reports.

  ©ICRC/Bernard Barrett ref.KE-E-00153    
An ICRC /KRCS team sets up a tap stand to distribute water at the Elburgon Primary School near Molo.    
  ©ICRC/Bernard Barrett ref.KE-E-00152    
  Displaced families prepare meals at the Elburgon Primary School near Molo.    
  ©ICRC/Bernard Barrett ref.KE-E-00154    
90 kg bags of maize are unloaded from a KRCS truck at the Elburgon Primary School near Molo. Three truckloads totalling 175 bags were delivered that day to the school by the KRCS.    

Until recently, there was only one tap for the whole displaced community near the town of Molo, which is estimated to be about 4,000 people, according to Laurent Wismer, the ICRC's water and habitation delegate based in Nairobi. " This limited access meant people may not have had enough water each day to wash and drink and that leads to poor health and an increased risk of disease, " says Wismer.

With Wismer's assistance, a team from the Kenya Red Cross installed a stand with an additional six taps as well as a bladder to increase the supply of water at the Elburgon primary school near the town of Molo in central Rift Valley. " A sufficient supply of clean water as well as proper sanitation facilities are essential to health, " adds Wismer. " It is particularly important when you have large numbers of people crowded together in stressful conditions. "  

 School now home to thousands of people ─ and animals  

The school is now a refuge for over 800 families who fled their homes because of the violence following the elections in Kenya. They are mostly farmers from the surrounding region and many brought their livestock with them as they fled their homes. The cattle and sheep are grazing on the slope just behind the school. At the front of the school women sit just outside the classroom doors tending the small fires used to cook the family meals.

Earlier in the day the ICRC/KRCS team installed similar water systems in three other camps for displaced people in the Molo area, and arranged the digging of latrines. " This morning we loaded tap stands, bla dders and latrine pedestals in the back of the land cruiser and visited a number of sites where the displaced have gathered, " explains Wismer. " This allowed us to respond immediately when we saw situations such as here in Elburgon. "

While the tap stand is being installed, trucks from the Kenya Red Cross unload 90 kg bags of maize to be distributed to the people at the school. A total of 175 bags are delivered that day in Elburgon. The Kenya Red Cross has also provided them with clothes, beans and cooking oil.

Joseph Kegese is the headmaster of the school and he has taken charge of organizing the displaced people. He explains how they have set up committees to deal with a range of tasks including safety, conduct in the camp, pastoral services and even maintenance of the latrines. He is also trying to bring together local elders to reduce ethnic tensions in the surrounding areas. 

" Classes were to have resumed this week, " he adds, " but the school will remain closed until the problem is solved. I can't just chase these people away. "