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UN refugee agency offers aid for up to 100,000 displaced Kenyans


UN refugee agency offers aid for up to 100,000 displaced Kenyans

The UN refugee agency prepares to distribute relief supplies to tens of thousands of Kenyans displaced by the recent turmoil.
7 January 2008
UNHCR staff at Dadaab load trucks with aid destined for distribution among displaced people in Nairobi and western Kenya.

GENEVA, January 7 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency has begun preparations to distribute relief supplies to tens of thousands of Kenyans displaced by recent turmoil in the East African country, where UNHCR already cares for more than 270,000 refugees from elsewhere in Africa.

"We are providing immediate aid for up to 100,000 people as part of the overall UN response," Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees L. Craig Johnstone announced at the weekend. "We have supplies for 50,000 people in our Nairobi warehouse and will bring in additional items from UNHCR's regional emergency stockpiles in Dubai or in Tanzania."

On Monday, UNHCR was making arrangements to transport an initial eight metric tons of blankets and soap from its warehouses in Dadaab, north-eastern Kenya to Nairobi for onward delivery.

Trucks carrying the aid were expected to leave Dadaab on Monday evening and are expected to arrive in Nairobi on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. Stocks are kept in Dadaab for some 171,000 mainly Somali refugees in three camps there.

In Nairobi, meanwhile, staff at UNHCR's warehouse in the capital have begun preparing family kits containing items such as plastic sheeting for shelter, blankets, mats, mosquito nets and soap.

The supplies from Dadaab and Nairobi will be used to help up to 100,000 of an estimated 250,000 people who have been displaced in post-electoral violence in Kenya. "We expect to start distributing these items during the course of the week," said Eddie Gedalof, UNHCR acting representative in Kenya.

UNHCR will work with the government, the Kenyan Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies in organizing distribution of the relief supplies. The operation is focused on displaced people in the Rift Valley and in areas around Nairobi, where many people have found shelter in churches and police stations.

"UNHCR in Kenya has never worked with IDPs (internally displaced people) before," noted Gedalof, while adding that "in light of the needs of Kenyans, we are mobilizing to join our UN sister agencies, the Red Cross family and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in a joint effort to alleviate the suffering of Kenyans."

The Kenya Red Cross and some NGOs are already assisting IDPs in Nairobi and western Kenya. Additional UNHCR stocks may be brought in from other stockpiles in the region - mainly from Tanzania and Dubai. However, there are concerns that the airport in Nairobi is taking too long to process incoming cargo.

UNHCR has also sent additional staff from its emergency unit. An advance team arrived in Nairobi on Sunday and will help coordinate assistance to the IDPs as well as assess their needs.

In neighbouring Uganda, meanwhile, UNHCR is working closely with the Ugandan Red Cross to make assistance available for thousands of people who have fled their homes over the past week to escape outbreaks of violence in western Kenya. Some 3,000 Kenyans crossed the border at Lwakhakha, Malaba and Busia, and are staying with families or friends on the Ugandan side.

UNHCR has made tents available at these three locations to house the most vulnerable. Refugees in Malaba and Busia have already received basic assistance from the Red Cross, including items such as blankets and kitchen sets. The Ugandan Red Cross is also carrying out registration of refugees.

In addition to assisting the Kenyan IDPs, UNHCR workers at camps in north-west and north-east Kenya are taking care of more than 270,000 refugees from surrounding countries.

Kenya provides a vital lifeline for the flow of aid supplies to these camps, as well as to UNHCR-assisted refugee populations in Southern Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. UNHCR believes it is imperative that aid agencies continue to have safe and unhindered access to those in need.

Deputy High Commissioner Johnstone, in his weekend announcement, recognized Kenya's long and generous record of support to these refugees from throughout Africa and said UNHCR wanted to provide as much humanitarian help as possible to Kenyans affected by the current turmoil.

"Over the years, Kenya has shown tremendous generosity in helping uprooted people from throughout the region," Johnstone said. "It is extremely distressing to see Kenyans themselves now being displaced and we want to do as much as we can to help alleviate their suffering."

By Millicent Mutuli and Emmanuel Nyabera in Nairobi, Kenya