UNICEF and ECHO help victims of election violence rebuild their lives in Kenya

© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-1467/Bonn
In the town of Eldoret, in Kenya’s Rift Valley province, Grace Githinji (right) stands in front of the shop she rebuilt after it was destroyed during post-election violence in 2008. She is providing shelter to Lucy Tendwa and her family.

By Chris Niles

ELDORET, Kenya, 14 May 2009 – Grace Githinji has a small garden in Eldoret, in central Kenya, where she grows cabbages, kale and corn. This is the region that produces most of Kenya’s food, and her crops are thriving in the rich red soil.

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The tranquillity of her life today is a far cry from the horror she experienced when inter-tribal violence raced across the country in January 2008, following a disputed presidential election. Hundreds were killed and tens of thousands were made homeless.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-1468/Bonn
Grace Githinji rebuilds the mud wall of her shop in the town of Eldoret, in Rift Valley province.

Fires bring destruction
There is an empty field a few hundred metres down a dirt road from Ms. Githinji’s house. It’s the site of the former village church, where people were burned alive.

“The fire started on the roof and it fell on the people in here, and it was impossible for them to get out,” said resident Jane Mweru.

Ms. Githinji, who was in the church when it was set on fire, narrowly escaped being one of the victims. “I came outside and crawled under the fence, and when I looked I saw fire on this side and fire on that side, and the building was about to fall,” she said.

Her home and her shop – where she sells her produce – were also burned down during the conflicts. With nowhere else to stay, she had to move into a displacement camp in the Eldoret showgrounds.

© UNICEF/ NYHQ2008-1471/Bonn
A woman collects water at a camp in the town of Eldoret, where thousands of displaced Kenyans were housed during post-election violence in 2008. UNICEF and ECHO provided safe water for this and many other camps.

Help from UNICEF and ECHO
UNICEF helped to establish the camp with funds from the European Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO).

“A few days after the start of the violence, we adopted a quick decision to allocate the equivalent of $8 million to this emergency. UNICEF was immediately supported with an agreement of around $2 million,” said ECHO Technical Assistance Officer Yves Horent.

The camp in the Eldoret showgrounds, like many others across the country, also received equipment to provide fresh water.

“The ECHO funding contributed to buying emergency water supplies – for example, jerry cans, buckets and plastic latrine slabs – as well as pipes and fittings to fix the water supply from the town,” said UNICEF Emergency Water and Sanitation Officer Martin Worth.

Disease outbreaks prevented
That quick action saved lives. Although there were more than 350,000 people displaced in camps at the height of the violence, there was not one outbreak of diseases such as cholera, which can thrive in emergencies due to contaminated water.

Ms. Githinji is happy to be home again, although rebuilding her house by hand is slow work. Her husband, a member of a rival Kikuyu tribe, fled to his ancestral home to escape the violence and still fears for his safety.

“I still have my farm, where I grow my food; so that’s how I’m helping myself just to survive,” said Ms. Githinji.




UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on how UNICEF and ECHO have supported recovery for victims of Kenya’s 2008 post-election violence.
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