|UNICEF is working to ensure a protective environment for displaced women and children living in temporary camps in Kenya.|
By Pamella Sittoni
NAIROBI, Kenya, 16 January, 2008 – An estimated 250,000 Kenyans remain displaced following civil unrest that began shortly after the announcement of national election results on 27 December sparked a wave of rioting in the capital and other areas.
Jane Wamuyu is a 23-year-old mother of four who lives in the Mathare slum in Nairobi. Recently, she and her children were held hostage by assailants, then ordered to leave their home.
“They grabbed my baby and one of them held him aloft with one hand. Then they asked me to choose who should die,” she recounted. “I was terrified. I did not take anything from my house. I didn’t even give my children time to put on their shoes.”
Ms. Wamuyu and her children have now taken refuge at a nearby parish church with approximately 300 other displaced people. The church is the site of just one of dozens of temporary camps that have sprung up in the wake of the violence.
To many displaced residents, the unrest came as a complete surprise.
“On 27 December, we voted peacefully and everything was fine – until the final presidential result was announced,” said Grace Nyambura, who has also taken shelter at the church. “Suddenly, gangs were marching through the slum villages and ordering members of our community out. There was such mayhem. We are lucky we sought refuge here.”
Providing for basic needs
UNICEF is now working with the Kenyan Children’s Department to ensure a protective environment for children within the camps. The organization has provided family kits for more than 60,000 people; the kits include basic necessities such as tarpaulins, blankets and cooking utensils. Displaced families are also receiving medical supplies, nutritional supplements, and water and sanitation support.
‘Dignity Kits’ are being provided to 10,000 displaced girls and women, with items such as soap, toothpaste and traditional Kanga cloths.
Meanwhile, families wait to return home, listening intently for any news that will offer a solution to current conflict and the chance to rebuild their lives.