MAP helps thousands caught in Kenya crisis

Despite an agreement signed more than a month ago that many people hoped would quell the recent fighting in Kenya, hostilities have continued in this east African country that was once the most stable in the region.

The initial conflict erupted over a political power struggle between President Mwai Kibaki and his opponent, Raila Odinga, after a disputed presidential election in late December. Each side accused the other of rigging the election, and brutal clashes arose between members of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, the largest in Kenya, and an ad hoc coalition of clans including members of Odinga' Luo tribe. In the weeks that followed, violent mobs wielding machetes, guns and other weapons killed more than 1,000 people and drove more than half a million others from their homes.

It is the worst violence that Kenya has seen in more than a decade. And though the two politicians signed a power-sharing agreement in late February, attacks have continued between members of opposing tribes. Many of the survivors, who often fled just moments before their homes were torched by attacking mobs, have taken up temporary residence in tents at crude, makeshift camps dotting the country.

"People are afraid to go back home," said Chris Palusky, MAP's relief director, who has flown to the region numerous times to coordinate MAP's response. "People are scared. Many of them were wounded or have lost family members and friends in the fighting. Many of them are now sick because they can't get the healthcare they need."

Some health clinics have closed due to the fighting, and camps for the displaced are often breeding grounds for disease. Food, shelter, water, sanitation, and healthcare are often lacking.

But MAP International is providing healthcare for more than 30,000 people in areas affected by the fighting. MAP is operating a total of six clinics, including three mobile units designed to deploy rapidly to areas where healthcare is critically needed. MAP is also operating stationary clinics serving large segments of the displaced population that have relocated to the regions of Nakuru, Makutano and Molo.

MAP clinicians have provided care for people wounded by machetes or other weapons used in the fighting. Many other patients are women and children who have succumbed to illnesses such as malaria and dysentery. In order to diminish the risk of disease, MAP is also providing immunizations for children in the areas MAP is serving.

"These people have often lost everything," Palusky said. "It's very important that MAP provide them with life-saving medical treatment. And we will continue to do so."