Displaced populations still on
the move in Kenya
13. 02. 2008
The violence that has shaken Kenya since late December last year
has led to population displacements in the western part of the
country. The general situation remains unpredictable and needs are
changing constantly. MSF has set up a flexible system to provide
logistical and medical aid to the displaced persons.
In this interview, Juliette Thaury, a doctor and field officer in
Kericho, provides an update on the MSF's mobile team's activities
at seven sites in the region.
The emergency team that you are part of was sent to the Kericho
region, located in western Kenya. What prompted this intervention?
Juliette Thaury: We arrived in Kericho on January 8. At that
point, the town was fairly calm but displaced persons' camps had
been set up in late December, after the results of the
presidential election in the Kericho region were announced,
provoking an initial wave of violence.
"We conducted an evaluation of health facilities and delivered a
donation of medicines and medical supplies to the Kericho hospital.
We also began providing medical and logistical aid at several
sites. The displaced persons who fled reassembled at various
locations, including near police stations and in schools.
"During the wave of inter-community violence, people went to the
locations where they felt safe. In Londiani, the settlement site
was around a church, where some Irish priests are based. Kamwangi
2 is next to a military camp. In Kericho, the sites are in the
park next to the church and next to a police station."
Has the number of displaced persons in these camps stabilized?
JT: "Since our mobile team began working, we've seen the situation
fluctuate dramatically. Tensions rose sharply after mid-January
and then eased.
Young men armed with machetes carried out several attacks against
the hillside villages. Inter-community violence broke out in
Montaragon, located two hours by car from Kericho, during the
night of January 19. People were killed and injured and more than
300 houses were burned.
"The police intervened by shooting into the air but the attacks
continued for nearly a week. As a result, the population of the
camp located near the school, which had increased sharply, dropped.
Many of the displaced persons felt threatened and left to return
to their regions.
"However, the numbers declined only slightly at several other
sites. Fewer people left because they felt safer. There are around
500 people at Kipkelion now; between 500 and 600 at Monastry; and
2,500 to 3,000 at Londiani. In Kericho, where there are still
2,500 and 3,000 displaced persons, the site was overflowing
following the January 31 murder of an opposition deputy from that
"But although the situation has since calmed down, the displaced
persons do not want to stay there. They would rather leave and
return to their home region."
Given the changing nature of the situation, what is MSF doing?
JT: "It is hard for us to predict what we will be doing more than
two days in advance because the situation is so unstable. Our
mobile team visits each of the seven sites regularly, based on
needs. However, priorities can change when violence erupts. The
medical team provides examinations and sees patients with
respiratory illnesses and diarrhea, but there are not many serious
"As the camps were organized, we launched a measles and polio
vaccination campaign for children under 5. We vaccinated a total
of 1,200 children at the seven sites.
"We are also keeping an eye on malnutrition. For now, we haven't
seen anything worrisome, but childhood malnutrition could become
an issue if the conflict persists.
"The team's logisticians have set up drinking water supplies,
installing tap stands and reservoirs at several sites. They've
brought two trucks to Kamwangi 2, providing up to 15,000 liters a
day. They also built showers and latrines and provided blankets
and plastic sheeting.
"Finally, a team composed of a surgeon, anesthetist and operating
room nurse has just been sent to Kericho to work at the district