.- More than 600 people have died and almost 200,000 people are now displaced by violence resulting from the contested December 27 general election, according to government officials in Kenya. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has provided $250,000 worth of emergency supplies to aid 37,500 people in the worst-affected regions of the Rift Valley. Working closely with other agencies, including the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and Caritas Kenya, CRS is now assessing ongoing needs and planning longer term response activities.
"The political crisis in Kenya is far from resolved, and unfortunately we fear that the humanitarian challenges are just beginning,” said Ken MacLean, CRS Kenya's country representative. "Of critical concern is the upcoming planting season. Families must prepare fields and plant seeds soon to have sufficient food, but until people feel safe from the threat of violence, they will not take action to secure their futures.”
In addition to providing emergency relief, with Caritas partners CAFOD and Trocaire helping to fund initial efforts, CRS is developing plans to help communities rebuild trust and eventually enable displaced families to rebuild their lives after extensive loss. CRS is also supporting the peace and reconciliation efforts of the Kenya Episcopal Conference.
People began fleeing their homes when riots broke out shortly after Kenya's electoral commission declared that President Mwai Kibaki narrowly beat challenger Raila Odinga. Since then, gangs primarily in Nairobi and western Kenya have threatened families and burned houses, taking advantage of the disputed results to drive people from their land.
Displaced Kenyans first sought refuge in churches, schools and police compounds. Some are now moving to designated locations to receive longer term services. CRS has delivered 7000 blankets, 10,000 mosquito nets, 5000 water cans, and 7500 plastic sheets for distribution by the Kenya Red Cross at three of these sites in Eldoret and Kitale. CRS is constructing temporary latrines in the sites as well.
CRS has worked in Kenya for more than 40 years, collaborating with local partners to serve some of the country's poorest communities through programs focused on food security, health care, HIV, orphans and other vulnerable children, agriculture, clean water, sanitation, and natural resource management.
Catholic Relief Services is the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency provides assistance to people in more than 100 countries and territories based on need, regardless of race, nationality or creed.