Caritas welcomes Kenya breakthrough: hard work starts now

Caritas Australia welcomes the breakthrough in Kenya that brings hope after a tragic two months of violence and conflict.

At least 1500 people have lost their lives and 300,000 people have been forced from their homes since the disputed national elections in December 2007.

'Tens of thousands of people are seeking shelter in churches or cathedrals, schools, police stations, government administration compounds and trade centres,' said Caritas Australia's CEO Jack de Groot.

'Whilst the political breakthrough is essential to get the country back on its feet, the challenges of reintegrating communities that have been cleaved apart by ethnic violence will take many years,' said Mr de Groot.

'Initially our focus has been on assisting those affected, providing shelter, clean water, food and sanitation,' commented Mr de Groot. 'Now the situation appears to be more stable we can look to the longer term needs. The really hard work starts now. Trauma counselling, peace building and integration programs aimed at healing the suppurating wounds of a people gouged open by these conflicts, will be the next phase of our operation.'

Scott Martin, Caritas Australia's African representative based in Nairobi said, 'the feeling on the streets of Nairobi is one of relief and hope'

'The political leaders have shown great determination today to work out a deal and now they must work diligently to bring their own supporters along and ensure we do not again return to violence,' said Mr Martin.

'The real challenges now are to get people out of the IDP camps and back to their homes and work. Kenya is a society based on small scale agriculture and after months of inactivity at an important growing time, food security is now a real issue. We also have to focus on reconciling. the victims of the violence - and there are so many families who have been affected - with the perpetrators. The conflict has destabilised all the economies in the region and it will be a long process to rebuild but the important first steps were taken today,' concluded Mr Martin.

Caritas Australia, has pledged $420, 000 with the support of AusAID ($250,000) to assist with shelter, distribution of emergency kits, food and clean water and has commenced trauma counselling and peace-building programs in Kenya as an initial response to the tragedy.

For more information contact Tim O'Connor 0417 284 831 or 02) 8306 3444