Kenya: MSF Continues to Provide Assistance as Violence Declines

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Activities focus on the displaced, and treatment of HIV, TB, and kala azar

Since political parties have reached a power-sharing deal and the security situation has improved in many parts of the country, MSF teams plan to phase out activities in some locations. However, as the rainy season is starting, and thousands are still living in displaced-persons’camps, MSF medical and logistical staff will continue to assist those affected by the violence while also providing HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and kala azar treatment and care at long-running projects. 

More than a month after a power-sharing deal was reached between the Party of National Unity and the Orange Democratic Movement, the make-up of Kenya’s Cabinet has been agreed upon. In recent weeks, the security situation has improved considerably in many parts of the country, and MSF teams are planning on phasing out activities in some locations. However, as the rainy season is starting, and thousands of people are still living in displaced-persons’ (IDP) camps, either unwilling or unable to go home, MSF medical and logistical staff will continue to assist those affected by the violence while also providing HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and kala azar treatment and care at long-running projects.

Continuing to Assist the Displaced

“People want to go home, but a lot of them just don’t feel able to. They’re still scared, and unless a lot more is done in terms of support and security, many of them will stay in these camps,” says Donna Canali, MSF project coordinator in Eldoret.

While there are no accurate figures, thousands of people are still living in IDP camps scattered around the country. Most of them fled their homes during the violence that followed Kenya’s disputed election in December 2007, although some were displaced before that by clashes over land and ethnic violence. In Eldoret and Molo District, both in Rift Valley Province, MSF mobile teams are visiting more than 30 locations, providing medical consultations and care. The main complaints are upper respiratory tract infections, intestinal parasites, skin diseases, and conjunctivitis.

Near Kitale, which is also in the Rift Valley, MSF teams have replaced the tents that they built at the end of January in Endebess camp with 800 more robust structures. Although the camp is crowded, the tents provide much better shelter than the plastic sheeting that was originally put up as a temporary measure. Medical activities, including: a primary health center; a women’s health center; a network of community health workers; and mental health counseling, continue in the camp, which is thought to house around 8,500 people.

Responding to the Changing Situation

As many Ministry of Health facilities throughout Kenya are functioning normally now, MSF staff will phase out activities in some locations over the coming weeks. However, with the rainy season beginning, and some cases of cholera already appearing, MSF teams will continue to monitor the situation and are prepared to respond, if necessary. A small MSF team is also doing an assessment in Marsabit District, Eastern Province, where a combination of the post-election political crisis, clashes between different groups, a lack of rain, and the absence of assistance has led to concerns about food security.  

Treating Victims of Violence

The calm that has returned to many parts of the country has eluded the Mount Elgon area, in western Kenya bordering Uganda, where long-running land disputes and ethnic clashes have recently spilled over into some parts of neighboring Trans Nzoia District. In March, the Kenyan armed forces were deployed in an attempt to stop the violence in the area and to crack down on militia groups operating there. Since then, the number of injured civilians has increased greatly; between March 10 and April 14, MSF teams treated 252 victims of intentional trauma in health clinics in the area.

Although violence in the slums of Nairobi has decreased drastically, the first-aid post that MSF set up in Mathare slum continues to see patients on a daily basis. In March, medical teams treated 14 direct victims of violence and provided follow-up care to a further 275 people. 

Ongoing HIV/AIDS, TB, and Kala Azar Care

In Nairobi, Busia, and Homa Bay, MSF continues to provide HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis care to thousands of people. In Kacheliba, near the border with Uganda, MSF is treating people infected with visceral leishmaniasis, otherwise known as kala azar.