News 2008


Elections - Children Pay a Heavy Price

The Nation (Nairobi)

11 February 2008


More than 100,000 children are still suffering in makeshift camps six weeks after the announcement of presidential election results sparked violent protests across the country.

The camps in Eldoret, Naivasha, Kericho, Kisumu, Nyeri, Thika, Nakuru, Limuru and in Nairobi are holding most of the children who make up one third of the 300,000 Kenyans uprooted from their homes by the unprecedented political turmoil.

Aid workers say the children, most of who have dropped out of school, bore the brunt of the violence that has left over 1,000 people dead.

Visiting UN head of humanitarian assistance John Holmes said Sunday the children will need a lot of counselling to regain their normal status. He said they were traumatised by the violence, with some becoming victims of abuse.

Addressing a news conference in Nairobi after visiting a number of camps in the country, Mr Holmes said the over-riding need was to provide emergency education in camps.

Psychological trauma

"Children form our top priority and we are concerned about the psychological trauma they are undergoing by staying in camps," he said at Serena Hotel.

In Eldoret, some 4,200 displaced children have been enrolled in makeshift schools in five camps. Aid workers say 2,555 children are at the Nakuru showground and the Afraha Stadium camps. At least 30 babies have been born at the showground camp and were being attended to in makeshift wards.

Kericho has 2,315 children, while Nyeri Town is host to 1,000 children camping at Ruring'u stadium and in two churches. They have now dropped out of school.

Another 590 are in Thika and Juja, while 70 are in Karatina. Kirathimo camp in Limuru and Tigoni now hold 358 while Jamhuri Park and Mathare in Nairobi have 1,000 and 250 children each. Others are scattered in many other small camps.

In Naivasha, where displaced victims of ethnic violence are camping at the local police station and the prison compound, 300 children are living in deplorable conditions.

At the local police station and prison, aid workers and officials warn of a possible disease outbreak due to lack of basic facilities with the children at the greatest risk.

Humanitarian organisations and officials say the number of children in the camps keeps fluctuating but officials in different camps say the children make up at least a third of the entire displaced population.

Some of the children arrived at the camps while only a few days old, while some were born in their new temporary homes. The children have had their education disrupted while some have been dogged by disease.

Congestion in most camps is also worrying those working with the displaced children.