AMREF – Responding to crisis: Lessons from Kenya’s silent emergency

Responding to crisis: Lessons from Kenya’s silent emergency

AMREF’s Deputy-Director General, Dr Florence Muli-Musiime has warned that emergency institutions, both local and international, risk misdirecting their humanitarian crisis response if they are not sensitive to community dynamics that are not always visible in times of upheaval. In a powerful message to hundreds of delegates at the 35th Global Health Council Conference taking place in Washington DC, Dr Muli-Musiime described a ‘silent emergency’ that nobody spoke about following the post-election violence in Kenya, whose implications for healing and recovery has more serious implications for post-conflict health and social development than the more widely publicised plight of internally displaced people in the country.

‘When the crisis broke out,’ she said, ‘the focus of the health system was to mitigate the physical injuries, while that of the donor community and emergency institutions was on the Internally Displaced People. But we realised that there was a silent emergency which none of the two groups was looking at – that of thousands of people who were caught up in their own homes, unable to go to IDP camps because they would have had to go through hostile territory to get there, and unable to access health or any other basic services. To make matters worse, they were physically assaulted and sexually abused in their own homes.’

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MAP helps thousands caught in Kenya crisis

Date: 25 Mar 2008

MAP helps thousands caught in Kenya crisis

Despite an agreement signed more than a month ago that many people hoped would quell the recent fighting in Kenya, hostilities have continued in this east African country that was once the most stable in the region.

The initial conflict erupted over a political power struggle between President Mwai Kibaki and his opponent, Raila Odinga, after a disputed presidential election in late December. Each side accused the other of rigging the election, and brutal clashes arose between members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe, the largest in Kenya, and an ad hoc coalition of clans including members of Odinga’ Luo tribe. In the weeks that followed, violent mobs wielding machetes, guns and other weapons killed more than 1,000 people and drove more than half a million others from their homes.

It is the worst violence that Kenya has seen in more than a decade. And though the two politicians signed a power-sharing agreement in late February, attacks have continued between members of opposing tribes. Many of the survivors, who often fled just moments before their homes were torched by attacking mobs, have taken up temporary residence in tents at crude, makeshift camps dotting the country. Continue reading