Relief agencies rush to feed displaced Kenyans

09 January 2008

by Rachel Harden

The Lutheran church in the Kibera area of Nairobi burning PA

The Lutheran church in the Kibera area of Nairobi burning PA

AS THE political situation in Kenya remained uncertain this week, aid agencies and churches called for more relief to support the estimated 250,000 people who have fled their homes.
One of the worst affected areas is in the West, the home of the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, whose supporters believe that he is the real winner of last month’s elections.

Thousands of refugees are sheltering around Eldoret, Kisumu, and Kakamega for fear of being attacked, the Salvation Army said this week. An emergency team has been sent to the region, where thousands are still sheltering in Eldoret Roman Catholic Cathedral.

A home for 14 AIDS orphans run by the Christian charity Spurgeons was burnt to the ground last week in the Kibera slum in Nairobi. No one was hurt.

World Vision has distributed food and relief supplies over the weekend to more than 150,000 displaced people from Kibera and those sheltering at a sports stadium near the Rift Valley. The aid agency is partnering the Kenya Red Cross Society to help those worst affected. The Red Cross estimated this week that at least 500,000 were in need of assistance in “every pocket of the country”.

Christian Aid is working with the Anglican Church of Kenya and its development branch, the Inter-Diocesan Christian Community Services, to provide relief to families in Kisumu town and the surrounding region in Nyanza province.

Judith Melby, Christian Aid’s Africa specialist, said: “Many thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes with absolutely nothing. We are providing the basics to help rebuild their lives. But we are also focusing on longer-term recovery. The real challenge in Kenya is rebuilding people’s lives and their trust in each other. This will require a sustained, committed effort by our partner organisations.”

Tearfund’s disaster management officer for northern Kenya, Phil James, said that an improvement in the security situation this week had helped food distribution, and the agency’s first large convoy had been sent to Eldoret. But he said that partners working in Nairobi and the Rift Valley had been affected by the unrest, and many staff were unable to return to work due to fear of violence.

The mission agency CMS has a number of full-time British staff working in Kenya. It reported this week that everyone was safe. The general secretary, Tim Dakin, had been in the country with his family when the violence started, but was now back in the UK.

Professor Esther Mombo, Principal of St Paul’s Anglican University in Limuru, reported that all staff members were safe but very concerned about the situation.

The Mission Aviation Fellowship said this week that it had temporarily suspended flights, although it had already evacuated missionaries and Kenyan nationals from the worst-affected areas. 

In the UK, both Chelmsford and Exeter dioceses have sent messages of support to their link dioceses and churches in Kenya.


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