Children bear the brunt of post-poll violence – 31 Jan 08

Children bear the brunt of post-poll violence

“You will fall,” Maureen Mbone, 23, warns her two sons who are playing nearby. She is a mother of three. Her youngest child, who is eight months old, is still suckling. The young mother is concerned about her five and three-year old sons who are playing, oblivious to their predicament. Ms Mbone and her husband have been residents of Nairobi’s Jamhuri Park showground, one of the 300 Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps in the country , for the last two weeks. She and her children had gone out to buy vegetables for supper when they met a gang of young men who asked her to say whom she had voted for in the December General Election.
The youths let her go, but she returned home to find her house burning because her landlord had supported the “wrong candidate.”

In just a few hours, the family had lost everything . Now, the Government wants to close the camp where this family and many others have found refuge following post-election violence. She does not know where to go.

“I cannot go back to Kawangware or back home to Kaimosi. The children are also out of school,” she says.

According to Unicef, over 100,000 children have been displaced countrywide and the global organisation says it will take months to rebuild their lives.

“They are deeply distressed. They saw their homes set on fire and their loved ones brutally killed,” says Sarah Cameron, the agency’s communication officer.

She notes that the highest number of displaced children are in the most affected areas in Western province, Rift Valley, Nyanza and slum areas of Nairobi.

They lack food and sanitary facilities. They are already showing signs of malnutrition.

The children’s agency together with the Ministry of Health has trained health workers to properly diagnose and treat malnutrition-related diseases.

The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) has been providing mobile health clinics, sanitation and vaccines for children. It is also providing water purification tablets to prevent waterborne diseases.

“We have also partnered with other organisations in providing counselling and stress management for the children,” said Antony Mwangi, the public relations manager.

The crowded conditions these displaced families are living in, says Ms Cameron, makes it difficult to effectively protect them, with the risk of abuse high.

Since early this month, there have been over 140 cases of sexual violence referred to the Nairobi Women’s Hospital. The hospital says almost half the cases are of girls under the age of 18.

Desesso Godana, 45, and his wife and six children live together in a wooden hall with other families at the showground. Just across him is a woman who is eight months pregnant and next to him is another large family.

Mr Godana is an Ethiopian refugee. Before the violence, he used to live in Huruma estate in Eldoret, where he was a casual labourer.

He sought refuge at mosque when the violence broke out, but when a church in Eldoret was burnt with people inside, the family fled to Nairobi and ended up at Jamhuri Park.

In their haste to flee, his two teen-aged boys disappeared. He cannot leave the camp to look for them. He also does not know whether they are alive or not.
According to Mr Mwangi, some minors have arrived at the IDP camps unaccompanied.

In such instances, the organisation informs the relevant authorities about their presence at the camp to ensure their safety as they trace their families.
“So far, we have reunited 237 children with their families,” he saids.

Another major setback for the children is the disruption of their education.  Government’s preliminary figures shows that 64,000 children are not able to attend school.

“The number one thing the displaced people are concerned with is education,” says Ms Cameron.

For Mbone, the family is destitute because her husband’s tools of trade were burnt inside their house.

“My son is supposed to joining standard one,” says Ms Mbone.

When the camps close, KRCS will give each family one- month ration of food to get back on their feet.

The United Nations and its 21 humanitarian partners is appealing for $42m (Sh3 billion) to provide humanitarian and early-recovery assistance.

According to Ms Cameron, Unicef ‘s $6.6m (Sh462m) appeal will boost emergency efforts.

“This will only cover six months of work and we have a long way to go,” she says.
Business Daily


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