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UNHCR launches aid distribution to displaced Kenyans


UNHCR launches aid distribution to displaced Kenyans

The UN refugee agency launches the distribution of basic household items to hundreds of displaced Kenyans in the capital, Nairobi.
9 January 2008
Two displaced children shelter in St Monica's near Nairobi's Dandora Estate slum. UNHCR family kits can also be seen.

NAIROBI, Kenya, January 9 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency on Wednesday launched the distribution of basic household items to hundreds of displaced Kenyans in the capital, Nairobi.

UNHCR and the Kenya Red Cross Society distributed kits containing plastic sheeting for shelter, blankets, mats, kitchen sets, mosquito nets and soap to 115 needy families (almost 600 people) who are camping in churches, schools and police stations in the city's poor suburbs. Further distributions are expected to reach some 50,000 displaced people, mainly in Kenya's Rift Valley Province.

Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees L. Craig Johnstone said last weekend that UNHCR would provide immediate aid for up to 100,000 people as part of the overall UN response. Aid supplies in Nairobi and Dadaab in the north-east are being tapped, while additional items will be brought in from emergency stockpiles in Dubai or Tanzania.

Many of the displaced who received supplies from UNHCR Wednesday are destitute. The former residents of Mathare Valley, one of Nairobi's sprawling slums, said they fled their homes without food, clothes, bedding, money or other belongings to escape post-election violence that has killed hundreds of people.

"They burnt our house. They told us to get out before setting the house on fire. I have nothing. Even this mattress I have been given here. My children are sleeping out in the cold with no blankets," said 30-year-old Pauline, who fled from her tiny tin shack in Mathare slums. She has found refuge in nearby Huruma police station, which now houses an estimated 1,200 people.

Others told tales of lucky escapes from death. At Nairobi's St. Monica Catholic Church, mother-of-five Benter waited Wednesday for her 18-year-old son to return from a nearby health clinic, where he had gone to seek treatment for machete wounds. Musa was attacked when he fled the family house when it was torched hours after the election results were broadcast on December 30.

Miyawa was also sheltering in the church with her five children after losing her house and most of her possessions during an attack some 10 days ago on the Dandora Estate, close to the Mathare slums. "All I am asking for is peace, only peace," Miyawa said.

"Groups of youths were shouting at each other. One group shouted ODM and the other PNU. Then all hell broke loose and people began burning houses," she recalled, referring to Kenya's main rival political parties - the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and the ruling Party of National Unity (PNU), whose narrow polls win has been bitterly disputed by the opposition.

Up to 600 people are believed to have been killed in the post-election violence in and another 255,000 people displaced from their homes, mainly in the Rift Valley, Western and Nairobi provinces.

The government is recommending the consolidation of displacement sites for better security and more efficient delivery of assistance. On Wednesday morning, a four-person UNHCR team travelled to the flashpoint town of Eldoret, located some 400 kilometres north of Nairobi, to help with camp coordination. Another UNHCR team will travel to Nakuru, capital of Rift Valley Province.

"We expect to work with local authorities and various non-governmental organizations managing camps to agree on minimum standards on services in each camp and also ensure consistency in the delivery of services in the sites." said Eddie Gedalof, UNHCR's acting representative in Kenya.

In neighbouring Uganda, the situation remains relatively stable. Some 3,400 Kenyans have been registered by the Ugandan Red Cross in Busia, Malaba and Lwakhakha. Small numbers of people continue to arrive through the border crossings at Busia and Malaba.

Many of the refugees are camping in schools that are set to reopen for the new school year in February. UNHCR is working with the government of Uganda to look at alternative accommodation for the refugees.

By Emmanuel Nyabera and Millicent Mutuli in Nairobi, Kenya