Lutheran World Relief pledges $25,000 to emergency relief efforts in Kenya

Baltimore, January 4, 2008 - Lutheran World Relief today pledged $25,000 toward relief efforts in Kenya in the wake of violence and unrest following a disputed presidential election.

LWR plans to work with local partner organizations the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya and the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church to provide emergency relief to people in the Kiisi, Rachuonyo and Mombasa districts who have been forced from their homes due to the violence. LWR is coordinating with other members of the global aid alliance Action by Churches Together International (ACT) to ensure an even distribution of aid in the affected areas.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Kenyan Red Cross, approximately 100,000 people have fled their homes since violence erupted in the country on December 30. Kenyan officials estimate that 5,400 have crossed into neighboring Uganda, with the rest internally displaced within Kenya. The country is facing dwindling supplies and immediate needs include food, shelter, fuel, water and sanitation facilities. The distribution of relief supplies is hampered by a fuel shortage and a lack of security on many roads.

LWR's initial response efforts, in coordination with our partners, will focus on the makeshift shelters that are now providing temporary shelter to thousands of displaced persons.

"Schools and churches are being used by thousands of people" said Annastasia Mulwa, LWR's country program manager in Kenya. "These facilities are not equipped to handle the water and sanitation needs of large numbers of displaced. These issues, along with food and other items, such as health and hygiene materials, are a clear priority."

The current unrest in what is traditionally one of East Africa's most stable countries follows a presidential election in which incumbent president Mwai Kibaki was elected to a second term. The election results have been contested by international observers who said the election did not meet international or regional standards and that the tallying of votes lacked transparency and security. Kibaki's opponent, Raila Odinga, has suggested that the election was rigged.

Tribal loyalties have fueled the violence, as politicians in Kenya often position themselves as tribal leaders in the tradition of African chiefs. Kibaki is a member of the traditionally powerful Kikuyu tribe and Odinga is a Luo.

"The situation is still very tense," said Mulwa. "Apart from looting and violence being experienced, churches have now become a target and [Wednesday] night two churches were burned down in Kibera slum in Nairobi."

One of the churches, Springs of Life Lutheran Church, is a congregation of the ELCK, and included a nursery and a health clinic supported by LWR partner organization LCMS World Relief and Human Care.

"No amount of pleading would stop them," said the Rev. David Chuchu, Project Coordinator for ELCK.

"A humanitarian crisis is unfolding," he added. "Thousands of people are sleeping in the cold."

LWR has worked in Kenya since 1983. Ongoing projects in Kenya focus mainly on increasing access to potable water, HIV/AIDS prevention and advocacy, and development of sustainable agricultural practices.