Kenya Humanitarian Update Nov 2002


For the first time in weeks, Kenya's politics took a back seat as all attention was diverted to a terrorist bomb attack on an Israeli owned hotel in Mombasa on November 28.

At least 15 people died and three others have been reported missing. The attack has been linked to the same al Qaeda network that bombed American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

A simultaneous missile attack on an Israeli charter airliner which was taking off from the Mombasa International Airport with 261 passengers on board. The missiles, however, missed the aircraft, which later landed safely in Tel Aviv.

Several people have reportedly been killed and dozens injured during civic and parliamentary nominations, prompting the police commissioner to issue strict security guidelines to avert more bloodshed the elections day.

The commissioner said political violence undermined democracy and could drive the country into anarchy. More officers will be posted in the most politically volatile regions. Such as western Kenya, Rift Valley Province and parts of Nairobi.

Banditry activities have been on the rise in the pastoral districts of Northern Kenya. In Turkana and West Pokot districts, nine bandits were killed in a spate of cattle raids on November 23-24. Meanwhile, the police have stationed guards at cattle watering points along the Turkana/ West Pokot border in order to reduce friction between the two tribes at shared/disputed watering holes.

Elsewhere, the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) in Kenya has issued an alert over a slow onset of famine in West Pokot and Turkana (northwestern Kenya) affecting close to 300,000 people following a near total crop failure in the region and persistent drought. The Kenya drought relief (EMOP), was phased out in September and the churches are warning of a famine disaster unless the area receives relief food.

Some pastoralists in districts bordering Somalia and adjacent to the Tana River are fearful that their recovery prospects may be threatened by flooding caused by heavy rainfall in neighbouring highland areas. Unfortunately, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) forecast considerably higher than normal rainfall in the entire eastern half of the country.

The Kenya Government and other partners are to start Food for Assets programme in six food insecure districts. Isiolo, Mandera, Turkana, Marsabit, Garissa/Wajir and Ijara will be covered by the programme.

Five incidents of localised flooding have been reported in the country since the onset of the short rains at the beginning of November. The above normal rainfall caused two makeshift dams to collapse killing a total of 18 people in Tana River (Coastal area) and Kiambu (Central Kenya). Uncharacteristically heavy, yet poorly distributed rainfall, has been the distinguishing feature of the season in several areas of the country. Already, exceptionally heavy rainfall has caused flooding in the eastern pastoral and coastal areas of the country, reminiscent of the El Niño of 1997/98.

On HIV/Aids, UNICEF has started a campaign to ensure that the issue of HIV/AIDS orphans is given adequate attention during the elections. The campaign targets parliamentary candidates to commit to fighting for the rights of one million orphans.

On protection of refugees, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) defended its record on protection of refugees in Kenya and refuted claims by the New York-based Human Rights Watch organisation that it neglected refugees living outside the designated camps.

HRW released a report in the second week of November saying that tens of thousands of refugees in Kenya and Uganda lived under "dire and dangerous conditions". UNHCR spokesman said Kenya had a policy of encamping refugees and UNHCR did not have the capacity to provide security to refugees outside the camps. Over 500 Ugandan ex-combatants living in exile in Kenya and Sudan are to be resettled in their country. The resettlement exercise will include some 200 people in Kenya, and 300 in southern Sudan.

At the same time, World Food Programme (WFP) has issued an alert over serious food shortages for the refugee programme in Kenya. From March 2003, WFP will only be able to meet 65 per cent of commodity requirements. The project has a cumulative, un-resourced shortfall of 21,851 MT of commodities until the scheduled end of the current programme in September 2003.

A nutrition survey in Marsabit shows a slight improvement although malnutrition rates in the district remain higher than the national average. A report presented to the Health and Nutrition Co-ordination meeting revealed a wasting rate of 13.1 per cent which is very close to what was registered during the last survey in 1994.

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