Massive displacement in Kenya as violence continues

By staff writers
January 5, 2008

As violence continues amid attempts at a settlement following the bitterly disputed elections in Kenya, the number of people displaced has increased to some half million people, according to agencies and NGOs working in the country.

The Christian relief organisation World Vision was reporting figures of 150,000 at the beginning of the week, but the crisis has grown rather than abated - despite interventions by the United Nations and the South African archbishop emeritus and Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu.

World Vision has also reported that there have been significant problems reaching the displaced due to lack of fuel and barricaded roads throughout much of the country.

Seeking refuge at police stations, school and church compounds, World Vision said people are in need of food and essential items such as mosquito nets. The agency is planning to distribute mosquito nets, mobile toilets, water containers and blankets to affected communities.

"Youths are barricading the roads to affected areas across the country," said World Vision Kenya's Patterson Siema. "World Vision needs access to communities now living with a shortage of food and essential items. Our operations are also being hampered by a shortage of fuel but we are preparing to fly in supplies in the next 24 hours."

World Vision Kenya is partnering with other agencies to urge leaders of the contending political parties to seek a resolution to the situation. The Ufungamano initiative led by a coalition of NGOs and religious leaders of all faiths is working to meet humanitarian needs whilst also advocating for peace.

All World Vision offices in Kenya have been closed due to safety concerns and regular security alerts are being sent out to staff as the agency continues to monitor the situation.

"We appeal to the PNU and the ODM leaders to exercise restraint and call on their supporters to hold peace. The courts of law should address issues arising from the polls as a matter of urgency," said Thomas Ruttoh, Operations Director for World Vision Kenya.

Credible information is difficult to gather since transmission by most electronic media has been blocked. Kenyan media are unable to provide full details due to restrictions placed on them.

"We are locked in and it is difficult to know what is happening," said Patterson Siema.

World Vision is one of 140 national and international organisations and over four million men and women who have come together as a coalition of civil society organizations, alarmed by the rising hatred, violence and displacement across Kenya, to call for an end to violence and the restoration of peace.

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