Kenya

Kenya: Mt. Elgon Clashes - Information Bulletin No. 1

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The Kenya Red Cross Society's mission is to build capacity and respond with vigour, compassion and empathy to the victims of disaster and those at risk, in the most effective and efficient manner. It works closely with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which is the world's largest humanitarian organization and its millions of volunteers are active in over 185 countries.

In Brief

This Information Bulletin (no. 1/2007) reflects the information available at this time. For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

Mr. Abbas Gullet, Secretary General, Kenya Red Cross Society, Email; gullet.abbas@kenyaredcross.org. Phone 254.20.60.35.93; 254.20.60.86.81/13 Fax 254.20.60.35.89

Dr. Asha Mohamed, Deputy Secretary General, Kenya Red Cross Society, Email; mohamed.asha@kenyaredcross.org Phone 254.20.60.35.93; 254.20.60.86.81/13 Fax 254.20.60.35.89

Mr. Ahmed Abdi, Acting Head of Department, Disaster Preparedness and Response, Kenya Red Cross Society; Email abdi.ahmed@kenyaredcross.org Phone 254.20.60.35.93; 254.20.60.86.81 Fax 254.20.60.35.89 - Mr. Anthony Mwangi, Public Relations Manager, Kenya Red Cross Society, Email info@kenyaredcross.org . Phone 254.20.60.35.93; 254.20.60.86.81/13 Fax 254.20.60.35.89

All Kenya Red Cross Society assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct and is committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. For support to or for further information concerning the Kenya Red Cross Society programmes or operations, or for a full description of the Society's profile, please access the Kenya Red Cross Society Website at http://www.kenyaredcross.org or the Federation's Website at http://www.ifrc.org

The Situation

31,200 people have been displaced following ongoing ethnic clashes in Mt. Elgon that erupted in late December 2006. 49 lives have been lost and many more people continue to nurse bullet wounds and panga cuts in Bungoma and Mt. Elgon hospitals. The Internally Displaced People (IDPs) have camped in market areas, villages and with relatives. Other people have moved to neighbouring districts of Bungoma, Trans-Nzoia and partly Busia. Mt. Elgon has four divisions, with Cheptais and Kopsiro as the worst affected by the clashes. The fleeing communities are still moving to neighbouring divisions of Kapsokwony and Kaptama.

Most residents have been left extremely vulnerable as their houses and food stocks have been burned and their livestock and livelihood threatened. The clashes have caused food shortages and thereby increased food prices in the local markets. The normal livelihood of these people has been drastically interfered with. Communities in Mt. Elgon depend mostly on agriculture as their major source of income.

Some schools remained closed after the December 2006 vacations, while those that opened recorded low student turn out or dwindling student numbers. Specifically, 12 schools have been adversely affected. On the other hand, schools in areas where there are no clashes have experienced an unprecedented increase in the number of student enrolments. In Lwandanyi division for example, a primary school, which formerly had 800 pupils, now has over 2000 pupils.

The locals and the IDPs are competing over fuel, water and grazing land, thus aggravating an already fluid situation and fears of another clash. The price of charcoal has increased tremendously because of increased demand and is unaffordable to the locals.

As Mt. Elgon area is very cold, some of the IDPs, especially children and pregnant mothers, are now suffering from pneumonia and malaria. The water source is also not accessible to the affected people due to the ongoing clashes and so the IDPs have had to drink or use unclean water from springs and rivers. A number of children are experiencing malnutrition. This may cause further health complications. Most of the IDPs seem traumatised by the experience and need psychological counselling. Dispensaries are said to be recording over 50 outpatients daily and many more inpatient IDPs. These have caused a considerable strain on the meagre resources that are available in the dispensaries.

The situation on the ground has been changing daily with more displacements being recorded regularly. With the escalation of the clashes, the current number of displaced people is expected to increase beyond the current 31,200 people. The affected people are now working in shambas, hotels and other recreational areas to raise some income and take care of their families. Some men even go back to their former homesteads during the day to harvest food for their families who are settled in IDP camps. In the process some get killed or injured in skirmishes.

Red Cross Action

The Kenya Red Cross Society's Mt. Elgon and Bungoma Branches are working closely with each other and have already distributed relief supplies to the IDPs. This included 2,100 blankets, 550 tarpaulins, 500 kitchen sets, 2,100 jerricans, 60,000 aqua tabs, 2,100 mosquito nets, 132 packs of tinned fish and unimix worth Ksh 2,934,300. These items were distributed in Sirisia, Chwele, Tuikut, Kimabole, Lwandayi and Mayanja areas. The regional office has also restocked relief items and can cater for 200 more households (1,200 people).

The National Society is conducting regular assessments in the area to determine emerging needs among the IDPs and affected communities and later assist the IDPs. There is still a serious need for non-food and food items such as maize, beans and rice to assist the affected people especially those camping at market areas.

Coordination

A security operation by the Government of Kenya is ongoing in Mt. Elgon to quell further clashes between the warring communities. Mt. Elgon and Bungoma Branches are working closely with the local administration to ensure that relief supplies are distributed effectively to the affected communities and IDPs. Bungoma Branch is more experienced and is assisting Mt. Elgon Branch, which is a relatively new Branch. Peace meetings are ongoing through government initiatives and reconciliation initiatives by the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK).

The other organisation that has assisted the IDPs is Women Peace Link based in Eldoret. The NGO has distributed maize to the IDPs. The National Council of Churches of Kenya and World Vision are assessing the needs so as to assist the IDPs.