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UNICEF calls for US$4 million to urgently assist up to 700,000 children in Kenya

Nairobi, 8 October 2005, UNICEF has urgently appealed for US$4 million to assist  children  in  drought  affected  northern  Kenya.  More than 20,000 children  are  malnourished or at serious risk of malnutrition. The risk of polio  has  soared  with cases now reported in Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, which  border  the  remote, drought-affected districts in Kenya. Meanwhile, rising tribal and clan violence, often politically motivated and related to competition  over  scarce  water  resources, has targeted children, costing lives and injuries, and forcing thousands to abandon their homes.

“Children and families in northern Kenya are caught in a tragic struggle between the forces of nature, lack of development and sporadic outbreaks of horrific violence,” said UNICEF Representative Heimo Laakkonen.

“We need resources now to provide urgent assistance to 21,000 children facing malnutrition, to immunize almost a million vulnerable children against polio and to provide water to 100,000 people in critical need,” he said.

UNICEF  also  called  for funds to provide long lasting insecticide treated nets  to 96,000 children to protect them from malaria.  To protect children from  violence  and  assist their recovery, UNICEF is also seeking funds to establish  10  protective  drop-in  centres with counseling support, and to ensure  school  continues  for at least 40,000 children who would otherwise have dropped-out due to drought stress and/or violence.


In  the  past  year, improvement in rainfall in some areas of Kenya has not been  enough  to  improve  pasture  and  water  for  livestock  or increase agricultural  production. As a result, household food security has remained precarious  in  many  districts.  Working  with  the  government  and other organizations, UNICEF-supported assessments showed that more than a quarter of  children  in Mandera district, and more than one in every five children in the vast Turkana district, are acutely malnourished.

The  effects  of food shortages are compounded by poor child care practices including infrequent feeding of infants and young children, and high levels of  poverty.   The  education  of  girls  – which is always a key factor in improving  infant  and  child  health  and survival – is lowest in northern Kenya, where less than a third of girls ever attend school.  Health systems are  also poorly managed, and water points are often overwhelmed leading to environmental degradation as well as tension and sometimes violence between competing groups.


Laakkonen  praised efforts by the government to broker peace between groups in  conflict,  some  of  which have met with success. “Yet the risk of more violence remains, and the legacy of these brutal attacks marks children for months, years, even for life.”

Laakkonen referred in particular to the brutal attacks in Marsabit district in July, where over a hundred people were killed, including 22 children who were  slaughtered  at  their  primary boarding school, and Mandera district where  22 women and children were killed in March in a dawn raid by a rival clan. Many more were injured and were forced to flee from their homes.

“Those  behind  these  atrocities  deliberately  set out to kill children,” protested Laakkonen, “and these are not the only attacks this year in which children have been among the victims.”

A  recent  UNICEF review of the impact of tribal and clan conflict in Kenya listed  some  of  the  clashes  that have occurred in 2005, including those witnessed  in  Laikipia between the Maasai and white land owners; in Kwanza between  the Pokot and the Bukusu; in Mandera between the Garre and Murulle clans;  in  Maai  Mahiu  between  the  Maasai  and the Kikuyu; in Kitengela between  the  Maasai  and the Kamba; and in Marsabit between the Borana and the  Gabra communities. Since December 2004 an estimated 20,000 people have
been  displaced by violence in Mandera district. In many areas, even before the clashes, children and women were sexually assaulted while they were out searching  for water and fuel wood. In most cases the perpetrators act with impunity.

Laakkonen   said  that  the  source  of  these  attacks  lies  in  poverty, lawlessness,  poor  governance,  and  lack  of  investment and development, including  inadequate  access  to reproductive health services, schools and water  supply  –  all of which exacerbate competition over resources during times of scarcity.

“We  must  ensure  immediate  emergency  support  to the children and their families  who  are  so  critically affected by the drought and by violence, while  also  backing  government  initiatives  to  increase  investment and sustainable  development  in  these  environmentally  precarious districts.

These  issues are the focus of concerted support by United Nations agencies in Kenya,” he added.


In  September  the  wild  polio  virus  was reported in Somalia, making the situation  for  Kenya critical. Movement across the Somali-Kenyan border is frequent and usually unregulated. In view of the real risk of the spread of polio  to  Kenya,  UNICEF  and  WHO  are supporting an emergency Government campaign  to vaccinate children in 20 of the most vulnerable districts. The first  round  of  the campaign is slated for early October. Funds are still needed  to  enable  completion of the second round of the polio campaign in


UNICEF  works closely with the Office of the President, and other agencies, to  help  coordinate  emergency assistance to children and families. In the past year, UNICEF’s emergency response includes support for mobile clinics, supplementary  feeding  for  almost  22,000 children and 3,400 pregnant and nursing  mothers,  distribution  of  medical  kits benefiting about 310,000 people,  delivering  emergency  water supplies to more than 200,000 people, and  engaging  over  50,000  people in a large scale hygiene and sanitation campaign.   UNICEF has also supplied thousands of education kits to schools in drought-affected areas.

For further information, please contact:

Sara Cameron, Communication Officer, UNICEF-Kenya,
Nairobi: tel:254-20-622977,e-mail: scameron@unicef.org

Brenda Kariuki, Assistant Communication Officer,
Nairobi tel:+254-20-622977, +254 722 880067, e-mail: bkariuki@unicef.org




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