MAP International offers aid in wake of Kenya political conflict - 11 Jan 2008

MAP International has launched a multi-pronged response to recent violence in Kenya that erupted after a disputed election between presidential incumbent Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

In the wake of the vote held Dec. 27, when Kibaki was officially re-elected, more than 600 people have died in violent clashes primarily between supporters of Odinga, from the Luo tribe, and devotees of Kibaki, from the majority Kikuyu tribe. Thus far more than 255,000 people have fled their homes, fearing attacks from mob members wielding machetes, guns, and bows and arrows.

"Tensions are extraordinarily high and the threat of more violence is always looming," said Chris Palusky, MAP International's relief director, who is currently in Kenya to help respond to the crisis. "Many people fled their homes with only the clothes on their back. Now they're just trying to survive."

People have crowded into emergency camps that are often crude and unsanitary. There is typically very little food or water, and diseases spread rapidly. Many people have been wounded in machete attacks or other acts of violence.

MAP has provided emergency supplies such as food and blankets for the displaced and has also opened three medical clinics, each serving hundreds of patients a day suffering from diseases and injuries. MAP located one clinic just outside the Nairobi slum of Kibera, the largest slum in Africa and home to more than 1 million people. Within days of the election results, rioters had targeted and burned large swaths of residences in Kibera, prompting thousands to flee the area.

MAP has also established a clinic in Nakuru, about 90 miles north of Nairobi, where thousands more have sought refuge in an open stadium. Doctors there are feverishly working to treat as many as 800 patients a day. MAP's third clinic is treating hundreds of other patients each day in the town of Molo, where 25,000 people have sought safety after fleeing the violence.

"Many of the people MAP is helping had very little before this crisis began," Palusky said. "They were living in makeshift dwellings in Kenya's slums and shantytowns with very little personal belongings. Now, they don't even have that. Their homes have been burned down. They've had to flee for their lives. They need help, and MAP is providing that."

Ethnic violence has been rare in Kenya, the most industrialized nation in the region. MAP International operates an office in the country's capital of Nairobi.

MAP International annually delivers more than $300 million in medicines and medical supplies to more than 110 countries. MAP's relief office, located in Atlanta, also operates healthcare clinics and programs in areas affected by war and disaster across the globe.