April 25, 2012
With heavy rains already falling across much of the country, Kenyans pushed out of their homes during post-election violence more than four years ago have raised concerns about an impending humanitarian crisis as they await resettlement.
Kenyan officials say adequate intervention measures have been put in place to ensure IDPs do not suffer during the rainy season, while IDP representatives told Sabahi that the government and development partners should intervene immediately to avert a potential humanitarian crisis.
Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Osman Warfa, who is involved in the government's IDP resettlement programme, told Sabahi that the government has taken necessary steps to ensure IDPs are provided with basic necessities in the camps before being resettled elsewhere.
"Initially, there were cases of crowding and inadequate water supply. The unavailability of enough sanitation facilities in some of the camps made some of the IDPs susceptible to diseases, but now such cases are minimal," Warfa said.
The Rift Valley was one of the regions most affected by post-2007 election violence and hosts the majority of the IDPs, according to a report released last year by the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the National Network for IDPs.
According to the Ministry of Special Programmes, post-election violence resulted in the displacement of 663,921 people. Of those, 350,000 people sought refuge in 118 camps, while 313,921 persons were integrated within communities across Kenya.
The ministry said 4,885 families still need to be resettled.
In Naivasha district, about 150 kilometres north-west of Nairobi, there are ten IDP camps housing more than 1,500 families total. However, only five camps have been recognised by the government, Naivasha District Commissioner Hellen Kiilu told Sabahi.
Kiilu said unofficial camps were set up by IDPs who chose to live as tenants or hosted by friends or relatives, instead of joining the officially sanctioned camps. The individuals later jointly purchased land and set up their own camps with the help of non-governmental organisations and well-wishers as they waited to be resettled by the state, she said.
The government says such unofficial camps do not qualify for state help.
"We set a dateline for profiling of all IDPs, which was December 31st, 2008, and that is the data we are using. Whoever set up independent camps after the deadline cannot be recognised by the government," Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Special Programmes Andrew Mondoh told Sabahi.
The Ministry of Special Programmes provides food rations for people in recognised camps, but some say that is not enough.
Beatrice Nyokabi, a representative of the government-recognised Ebenezer camp, says displaced families have experienced untold suffering in the past four years.
"For us, it is continued suffering and we fear that we might be forgotten as politics and the coming general elections become the order of the day," she told Sabahi.
Rose Wanjiku, a representative of Jikaze camp, said the majority of youth in the camps dropped out of school because of harsh weather conditions and long travel distances.
"We have no reliable transport system here and the nearest school is located about five kilometres away, which is not easy for young children," Wanjiku said.
Displaced persons with serious illnesses, such us HIV/AIDS, are also living in precarious conditions because they do not have access to proper foods to help them cope with the strong drugs they depend on, she said. "For these people, even getting a meal is a problem, and a number of them have died as a result," she said.
Wanjiku said medical facilities are also far from the camps. "The closest hospital is about 30 kilometres away, and we have watched some children die because we cannot rush them to hospital, especially when they get sick at night," she said.
Naivasha Parliamentarian John Mututho said IDPs had overstretched services in his constituency. He said at least three IDPs die monthly and that neighbouring schools and hospitals are overwhelmed.
"The government has used so much money on IDPs, but we do not see any changes, as the victims continue to suffer," Mututho told Sabahi.
A parliamentary committee appointed to evaluate the status of the IDP resettlement programme found the Ministry of Special Programmes has not done enough to resettle people, committee chairman Ekwe Ethuro told Sabahi.
But Assistant Minister for Special Programmes Mohamed Gabbow told Sabahi that the ministry's work is on track. He said that as of December 2011, the government spent 10 billion shillings ($120 million) for the resettlement of IDPs.
He said the government has already assisted some IDPs who returned to their farms to re-start their lives.
"Adequate measures are already in place and the government is working with various development partners and non-governmental organisations to make sure all IDP camps are closed and everybody settled before elections are held," Gabbow said.
Tom Ondicho, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi's Institute of African Studies, said despite officials' assurances, the government must work more effectively with development partners to allocate financial and human resources to provide a permanent solution to the crisis.
"Although major interventions have been put in place to ensure protection and support to IDPs, the process has taken too long, and as the country prepares for the next general election… their resettlement should be given priority to avert another crisis," he told Sabahi.
The next Kenyan general elections are scheduled for March 2013.
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