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UNICEF condemns continuing violence in Mount Elgon

NAIROBI, 14 December 2007 – Today UNICEF condemned continuing attacks on families in Mount Elgon District.  UNICEF Representative Dr. Olivia Yambi said, “All sides in the conflict in Mount Elgon District have been responsible for driving families from their homes, for destroying homes and livelihoods. These actions are having a devastating impact on children, leaving them homeless, distress and injured. Children have been sexually assaulted and in some cases have even been killed.”

Children make up the majority of those displaced by the Mount Elgon conflict, now believed to be more than 46,000 – almost one-third of the entire population of the district.  The District Commissioner in Mount Elgon reported verified deaths in the conflict since 2006 stood at about 130 people.  Unofficial estimates put the death toll at moving towards 300.

Burning of homes and destruction of property is a strategy adopted by all sides in the Mount Elgon conflict. Dr. Yambi said, “UNICEF has spoken to children who have been forced to flee when petrol bombs have been thrown and engulfed their homes in flames.  Such experiences are terrifying for children and completely contravene humanitarian principles.”

In the midst of conflict, when they are forced to run away, children sometimes become separated from their loved-ones. In Mount Elgon alone more than 500 people, most of them children, have been separated from their families.  In cooperation with the Kenya Red Cross, UNICEF is supporting a family tracing and re-unification programme in the district.

The UK Government’s DFID and the Government of Spain are providing financial support for the family tracing programme as well as provision family kits to 3,500 displaced families – including blankets, plastic sheeting, cooking sets, soap and jerry cans – and hygiene and sanitation promotion through schools, also implemented in cooperation with the Kenya Red Cross.

“The heavy handed use of violence in Mount Elgon can have long-term damaging consequences for children and families.  The longer the conflict lasts the harder it will be to restore the peace,” said Dr. Yambi.

Referring to the UNICEF electoral campaign Look Out For Leaders Who Look Out For Children, the UNICEF Representative called on all leaders in Mount Elgon to look out for children.  “This is a time when we need to see leaders throughout the community putting children first. Violence is never in the best interests of children,” she said.

UNICEF assistance to families in Mount Elgon will continue into 2008.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Geoff Keele, UNICEF Media, Tel + 212-326- 7583, Email, gkeele@unicef.org




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