I traveled to Eldoret on Tuesday Feb. 19 with Ben, Regional Relief Coordinator and Chris, Kenya Relief Program Coordinator.  Our purpose was to assess the camps and IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) for needs that we might be able to assist with as a relief team.  I am temporarily serving as part of the relief team since the needs are greater there than as a Bridger for now.  We arrived in seven hours or so and had no problems on the road other than just a stretch of really rough road. 

Wednesday 20 February we spent time visiting leaders of other relief agencies in town.  As we drove through town, having only been here once, I didn’t really see anything different than when I was here in Nov.  It didn’t visibly look like a town so hard hit as the news reported.  I knew it was true, but couldn’t see it on the outside other than the larger number of police present. First we stopped at the Red Cross to talk with the regional director, Patrick.    CRWRC works with the Red Cross on the Mt. Elgon relief project and we discussed the violence that has flared up there in areas that were relatively calm prior to elections.  Patrick sees Raila as key in the situation.  The leaders need to play politics, but not use the people.  Raila and Ruto have great support and influence in this area and can help disarm the people if they choose to do so. The greatest need for the Red Cross is camp management.  Then better tents, hygiene and drainage.  Part of the show grounds camp is going to flood when it rains. There are two mobile clinics already running as well as the one stationed at the show grounds.  The mobile clinics have an MD, CO (clinical officer) and a couple of RNs I believe.  The clinics are complete small functioning clinics with records and supplies and they partner with the Ministry of Health.  The Red Cross is careful to be working within the government confines, so just within the camps. The Red Cross does have a mobile psycho-social unit with 20-24 counselors although we later found out that they had many Kalenjin counselors that those in the camps wouldn’t talk to since they were run off their land by Kalenjin. Patrick said that the Red Cross is willing to partner with us on food security and sees the challenge of NFI (non-food items).  He tells us that they are giving 2-week rations at the show grounds and one month at all other locations using the World Food Pgm standards.  However, once we visit the camps, we see that is not happening. 

Ben asks if it is possible to visit the show ground in the afternoon and gets the name and number of the lead volunteer.

 Next we stop at the RCEA offices.  There is no one there so we visit the conference center and view the old portion that was burned last Friday evening.  I was there last Nov and used those restrooms.  It just makes it more real to have a connection.  Ben and I both took photos.  The report is arson.  Arson is fact, all other is theory at this point and showing some of the tribalism that lies at the heart of this conflict.  Few are exempt, including church leadership. We then travel to visit with Rev. Maina who leads the RCEA Relief Team.  He is a stand-up guy and I like him.  He is currently helping with an updated version of the Kalenjin Bible.  He tells us that they were able to get people out of the conference center and into homes in the region.  They are still providing relief for those families from various locations.  The people being served are static.  When the violence hit Naivasha and Nairobi IDP’s traveled or returned to Eldoret.   We are entering the rainy season which is cooler and there is need for NFI.  The RCEA committee is looking at seeds on a small scale for subsistancy for about 500 families.  They are wondering what they can do with/for those who had small businesses to restart.  Perhaps RCEA’s greatest strength is that they are working through a network of local pastors.  The committee was a spur of the moment decision and they have all decided to remain working as such because they are ‘here to serve the people’ as Rev. Maina says. Questions regarding psycho-social support: 

  1. How do we convince IDPs that counseling will help?
  2. How do we assure IDPs that counseling will be confidential?
  3. How do we help IDPs understand the purpose of counseling?

 After we had lunch we visited the show grounds and started at the Red Cross office talking with Sidney, the coordinator of the camp.  This is where Alida joined us.  There are only 13 RC volunteers working at that location with no paid staff.  They have had as many as 19000 IDPs and are currently at 13,732 with 721 households in 5 camps onsite.  The numbers are assessed on a weekly basis.  People power is the greatest need in camp mgmt.   The school is functioning on site with many teachers who are themselves IDPs or sent by the Ministry of Ed. 

There is a plan to move camp A to higher ground to help prevent flooding.

 The greatest needs are blankets, better shelter with proper tents and kitchen sets.  There are some families of twenty with only one cooking pot. There are 40 GSU for security.  People do feel safe inside the camp and the women Alida and I spoke with do not fear rape. We then began to walk through the camp and talk with people about their story and life in the camp. I originally got separated from the group because I was surrounded by children and taking their photos.  Then I started to walk, looking for the others and the children held onto me and walked with me but no one knew where the other wazungu were.  We ended up at a small mkt stall and the children all wanted me to buy them a sweet.  It would have been fun to have done so but I didn’t think it was the best plan so I called Ben to tell him I was lost in the camp (it is really big) and he sent Alida to find me.  Thanks!