Kenya: Field report from Nairobi

In the aftermath of Kenya's Dec. 27 presidential election, looting and riots have spread across the country, killing hundreds of people and displacing more than 250,000. Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga have violently disputed the election results, in which the incumbent Mwai Kibaki was officially re-elected. Much of the aggression has been between members of Odinga's Luo tribe and Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, the largest in the country.

MAP International, which has an office in Nairobi, immediately responded to the crisis by providing blankets and emergency food for many of those affected. MAP is now operating one medical clinic and plans to open another to treat the sick and injured outside Nairobi.

MAP International Relief Director Chris Palusky recently traveled to Nairobi to better assess the situation and determine how MAP may further respond. Here is an excerpt from this report.

NAIROBI - With more than 350 people dead and tension still high in the wake of violence that has followed Kenya's disputed presidential elections, merely walking down the street can be unnerving. Tension hangs heavily in the air. People stare at you, their eyes following you. Everyone is anxious. Everyone is upset.

Just outside Nairobi's slum of Kibera, where MAP is operating a temporary medical clinic, more than 5,000 people have taken up residence in lean-tos and other improvised shelters. Their homes and many of their belongings have been burned by rioters. In countless places, passersby see nothing but hundreds of charred buildings. Houses, neighborhoods and slums have been burned. These are the homes of the poorest of the poor.

Each day more than 100 people visit MAP's clinic, where local physicians treat them for injuries and diseases and prescribe medicines MAP has provided. MAP next plans to open an additional clinic in the Nukuru area, on the opposite side of Nairobi, where thousands of others have also been forced from their homes and into temporary shelters.

The immediate future remains uncertain for many people here. The disputing political parties have yet to resolve the crisis, and more riots are expected unless a solution is soon found. Ethnic violence has been uncommon in Kenya, which until now has been the most stable country in the region. But the current violence could very well descend into a genocidal catastrophe that affects not only Kenya but its neighbors, many of which depend on Kenya for imports such as fuel.

Regardless of what happens, MAP International will continue to remain involved, expanding and adjusting its response as necessary. Hundreds of thousands of people need help, and that number may very well continue to grow. MAP is here to provide them with health and hope. And here MAP will remain.