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Displaced in Kenya: reaching those in need

11-01-2008 Interview

Over 250,000 people are on the move in Kenya as a result of post-election violence. Pascal Cuttat, the ICRC's head of delegation in Nairobi, says that the main focus and challenge at the moment is to meet the needs of the displaced in the Rift Valley and Western Kenya, a challenge that is being amply met in collaboration with the Kenya Red Cross.

  ©Reuters/Antony Njuguna    
  Kenyan Red Cross volunteers sort through donated items to be distributed to displaced people in Nairobi.    
  ©Reuters/Mike Hutchings    
  Displaced Kenyans take refuge at Burnt Forest Church near Eldoret.    
  Pascal Cuttat    

 How would you describe the humanitarian situation at the moment in Kenya?  


A first round of professional field assessments is underway throughout the country. These assessments have been completed in Western Kenya whe re there are about 51,000 displaced people. In terms of figures, the situation in the Rift Valley is much more fluid. People are on the move. There are large concentrations of displaced people in towns such as Eldoret, Burnt Forest and Cherengani but many others have left the Rift Valley to return to their ancestral lands where many are being accommodated by relatives.

 What are the priorities for the ICRC in this situation?  


The most urgent needs are for those remaining in camps in the Rift Valley and Western Kenya. These needs include water, shelter, food and health care. There are also urgent needs in hospitals throughout the country. These include surgical interventions and the identification of the mortal remains of hundreds of unclaimed bodies. Proper identification must be made possible before burial so that eventually, families can find out what happened if a family member is amongst the missing. We will also need to assist the hundreds of families who have been separated by the events, including children who have lost contact with their parents. These two elements are an important part of the ICRC's work and its special role in terms of protection of the population.

 Is humanitarian assistance reaching those in need, particularly in the regions that witnessed the greatest violence?  


For the ICRC and the Kenya Red Cross, access is not a problem. Security in the country is fair. The ICRC and the KRCS have been moving throughout the affected regions for over a week now. There is a high respect for the Red Cross in this country, despite some initial problems of asking Red Cross workers about their tribal a ffiliation. This problem has been overcome, and we are able to move wherever there is need. Our logistics systems are running to full capacity. We are providing food, essential household items, water and sanitation equipment, medical supplies as well as an ICRC surgical team. It is all reaching the people who need this assistance in the Rift Valley and Western Kenya. In the slums in Nairobi and other cities, people have not been able to work for weeks now and they are going hungry. The Kenya Red Cross is addressing this need by distributing food.

 How do you see the situation evolving in the coming days and weeks?  

A lot will depend on political developments. Hopefully, the political process will lead to a stabilization of the situation. But whatever the developments, there will still be the issue of return for those who are displaced. Assistance will be required for those who can return to where they were living and also for those who cannot. This will involve reconstruction of houses and other buildings. It will also require seeds and tools for those who return to their farms. Many of these people will need assistance with food for months to come. Efforts will also be required to ensure families who have been separated are reunited, or at the very least, that they know the fate of their missing loved ones.