Aid resumes in Kenyan camp after fighting ceases

News Stories, 25 June 2003

© UNHCR/B.Press
Ethnic Turkanas at the children's ward at Kakuma camp's hospital before the recent fighting disrupted services.

KAKUMA, Kenya, June 25 (UNHCR) Fighting has ceased in Kenya's Kakuma camp after leaders from the warring parties local Turkanas and Sudanese refugees agreed yesterday to help stop hostilities, paving the way for aid agencies to resume assistance in the camp.

On Wednesday, the situation at Kakuma camp was calm but still tense after almost a week of clashes between the local Turkana community and Sudanese refugees that had erupted because of a dispute over stolen cattle.

There have been no further reports of fighting since Tuesday afternoon, when Turkana elders and refugee leaders met with UNHCR and government officials to resolve the conflict.

Kakuma camp a sprawling site with three different camps hosts more than 86,000 refugees, most of them Sudanese. Kakuma III and sections of Kakuma II were most affected by the recent violence that killed 11 people, including nine refugees and two Turkanas.

As calm returned to Kakuma, UNHCR and its partners at the camp on Wednesday began distributing food and firewood to some 30,000 people displaced from the violence-hit camps. Nearly 8,000 people among the displaced refugees are still encamped in public areas such as schools and churches. Others have joined friends in Kakuma I and parts of Kakuma II both seen as safer sites.

UNHCR staff who returned to the camp with police escort pumped water for refugees in Kakuma I. The agency is also working with the UN World Food Programme to provide food for those whose supplies were looted.

Mobile clinics have been established in the camp to care for the sick, after the clashes paralysed medical facilities in out-patient clinics in the camp and at the Kakuma camp hospital. With the help of the police force and the paramilitary General Services Unit deployed to the tense camp, UNHCR expects to aid the return of medical staff to the hospital, which also provides out-patient care.

The refugee agency has also sent some food to Lokichoggio, a border town some 80 km from Kakuma, to assist 335 newly arrived Sudanese refugees stranded at a reception centre there.

UNHCR has said it hopes that if the current calm is sustained, displaced refugees may feel confident enough to return to their camps.