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UN: $4 million for children in northern Kenya?

UN Children’s Fund appeals for $4 million for children in northern Kenya

Thousands of children in northern Kenya are malnourished, or at risk of malnutrition, and face the threat of polio and rising regional violence over scarce water, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said, as it appealed for $4 million.

“More than 20,000 children are malnourished or at serious risk of malnutrition,” UNICEF said. “The risk of polio has soared, with cases now reported in Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, which border the remote, drought-affected districts in Kenya.”

In addition, 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.

UNICEF said it needed funds to assist 700,000 children, including 21,000 facing malnutrition and polio and 96,000 who need anti-malarial bed nets. It would also build drop-in-centres for 40,000 children fleeing violence and provide 100,000 people with water.

UNICEF Representative Heimo Laakkonen praised efforts by the Kenyan Government to broker peace between northern groups, with some success. “Yet the risk of more violence remains, and the legacy of these brutal attacks marks children for months, years, even for life,” he warned.

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 in Laikipia between Maasai land claimants and white ranchers; in Kwanza between the Pokot and the Bukusu; in Maai Mahiu between the Maasai and the Kikuyu; and in Marsabit between the Borana and the Gabra communities.

Since last December an estimated 20,000 people have been displaced by violence in Mandera between the Garre and Murulle clans. In many areas, even before the clashes, children and women out searching for water and fuel wood were sexually assaulted by perpetrators who most often acted with impunity, UNICEF said.

Mr. Laakkonen said the area suffered from poverty, lawlessness, poor governance and the lack of investment and development, including inadequate access to reproductive health services, schools and water supplies.

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