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Kenya: Tensions Ease, Humanitarian Work Increases

UN agencies step up humanitarian response as Kenyan post-election tensions ease

As the security situation continues to improve, United Nations agencies and their partners have accelerated their efforts to deliver critical relief for up to 255,000 Kenyans displaced by last week's post-election violence.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that while the situation in the country is reported to be slowly returning to normal, aid workers agree that many Kenyans will feel the effects of the crisis for some time to come.

The Government of Kenya reports that up to 255,000 people have been internally displaced as a result of the violence that erupted last week after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner in the recent election. Some 350 have reportedly also been killed.

The UN Country Team in Kenya, which is working with the Kenya Red Cross Society, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and faith-based groups, have accelerated their response in recent days as security has begun to improve.

The first seven of 11 trucks from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) - with enough food to feed 38,000 people for two weeks - arrived in the western town of Eldoret from the port city of Mombasa, where they had been stranded during the first days of the crisis.

"Trucks with assistance are moving, distributions are taking place and assessments are underway," Peter Smerdon of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) told reporters in the capital Nairobi today.

To date, WFP has drawn on its stocks from other operations in Kenya to provide 670 tonnes of food in Eldoret, while a similar amount has been stockpiled in Nairobi to be used to feed the hungry in the slums. Another 40 tonnes have been sent to the western port town of Kisumu, where the agency and its partners are planning to assist some 3,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is making available immediate non-food items for up to 100,000 people. Today it is shifting 24 tonnes of blankets and soap from its warehouses in north-eastern Kenya to Nairobi for delivery to displaced Kenyans.

In addition, staff at the agency's Nairobi warehouse are preparing family kits containing items such as plastic sheeting for shelter, blankets, mats, mosquito nets and soap that will be distributed this week.

The Nairobi-based UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) is supporting humanitarian agencies in addressing the immediate shelter needs of the displaced. It is also working to establish the extent of the destruction and loss of housing, land and property following last week's events.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), for its part, has voiced concern that endemic chronic malnutrition, which affects 30 per cent of Kenyan children, could worsen during the current crisis. The agency, in partnership with Médecins sans frontiers-Switzerland, is currently working to establish the nutritional needs of the displaced families and to ensure that children's needs were protected.

UNICEF will be distributing 4,000 family kits today and an additional 4,000 in the coming days. It will also be handing out education kits to displaced families.


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