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Kenya: a makeshift school, and porridge, for displaced children

28-01-2008 Feature

Eldoret showground, in the Rift Valley, is one of many public spaces that have been opened up to receive thousands of people displaced from their homes in Kenya’s post-election violence. The ICRC’s Anne Mucheke reports on what is being done for the children.

© ICRC / Anne Mucheke / KE-E-00166    
Children drink water from a tap stand installed by the ICRC with the bladder in the background.

© ICRC / Anne Mucheke / KE-E-00168    
Displaced persons receive cooking oil at a food distribution centre at the showground camp.
© ICRC / Anne Mucheke / KE-E-00169    
Eldoret showground. ICRC trucks arriving for a large distribution of relief items.  

Children at the Eldoret showground camp, in Kenya's Rift Valley, recite a poem calling for peace in their country. The various schools they normally attend are out of reach, but the 1,500 pupils still wear their uniforms at the camp school, creating a colourful effect in the classroom.

The school, run with the assistance of UNICEF, is a breathing space for kids in the new life they face. Teachers among the camp population help to ensure the children's education is not too disrupted.

Their parents, meanwhile, are queuing for food distributed by Kenya Red Cross (KRCS) volunteers. Each family receives a two-week ration consisting of maize, beans, lentils, cooking oil, and UNIMIX (an enriched food that can be served as porridge).

There are almost 13,000 displaced people at the Eldoret showground. The camp is divided into four clusters and each has its own assembly point to ensure that distributions go ahead smoothly. The families are relying on the KRCS and partners like the ICRC to provide food, water and sanitary facilities.

 Hundreds of patients at the clinic  


Women fetch water in containers while children drink straight from a tap-stand installed by the ICRC. There are several of these, as well as water bladders, ensuring water for everyone in the camp.

At the Red Cross clinic, children are immunized and their mothers given infant formula milk and enriched porridge. A young girl, on her own, is unable to say much about her epileptic condit ion; the nurse sends her back to get her mother, to learn more vital details.

'' The clinic gets an average of 400 to 500 patients daily, with all kinds of ailments,'' says Abdinoor Mohammed, who is in charge of KRCS operations in the North Rift region.

The Red Cross has also been working at the town's Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital. An ICRC surgeon, anaesthetist and two nurses have been working at the hospital for the past three weeks. They have been performing operations on difficult cases such as burns victims and people whose wounds have developed complications.

'' The Red Cross is really helping us here, says one pastor from Eldoret.'' We have enough food and there are enough sanitation facilities for our use. Besides, they are also helping families find their loved ones.''

 Need for security  


Like many of the others here the pastor had to flee his home, having been told by a friend of a different tribe about the skirmishes breaking out.'' Some of us were warned there would be trouble. Some politicians had been going round fuelling the riots,'' he adds.

"What we need is reassurance that we will be safe. Our lives are at stake"

Simon Njoroge is one of many who want to return home – but he is afraid of the security situation outside the camp.'' We can't live in this camp for ever; we are able-bodied and can take care of our families. Besides, our farms are out there and we have to earn a living. What we need is reassurance that we will be safe. Our liv es are at stake,'' says Simon.

At the camp, residents have set their own rules and no one goes in or out after 10 pm. The perimeter of the camp is well guarded, making it secure for the residents.

By the last weekend in January, the situation in the Rift Valley was uncertain: people were still arriving at Eldoret and the Red Cross was not about to pack up and leave.