UMCOR Provides Help for Kenyans Still Displaced by 2007 Election Violence
by Michelle Scott*
November 5, 2008—Eleven months after post-election violence in Kenya, tens of thousands of people still languish in camps, afraid or unable to return home. The United Methodist Committee on Relief is there through the helping hands of partners in Kenya.
By working with the United Methodist Church in Kenya, the Methodist Church in Kenya, and other partners, UMCOR is able to provide direct assistance to people left vulnerable by the crisis.
"The situation in Kenya is still quite extreme," says Melissa Crutchfield, head of UMCOR's international disaster response. "Support in the camps is dwindling as agencies expect the people to return home."
Return Home Not Possible
For many however, return is simply not possible. In some villages the homes of those who fled have been leveled and the area turned into market stalls, or others have taken over their homes and land. It has been made clear that those who fled will not be welcomed back to their home villages-their jobs, homes, livelihoods and crops are all gone.
Meanwhile assistance coming into the displaced persons camps decreases each week as the Kenyan government encourages people to return home. The government return package, while helpful, is not sufficient to restore what was lost, or to restart in a new location-which is what will be needed for many families to leave the camps.
Compassionate Help in Nakuru
This is the case in the district of Nakuru, which at one point held 40,000 internally displaced people and also the site of one the largest camps, with 14,000 displaced people in the camp at the crisis' peak.
The Nakuru United Methodist Church is one of the most active faith-based organizations already in the area. Their already-established health ministry took on new challenges immediately following the crisis until this day. Prior to the crisis the church's clinic saw about 20 patients a day. In September 2008 they saw about 400, an increase from even the months immediately after the crisis.
UMCOR is helping Nakuru United Methodist Church expand its capacity to continue to serve people displaced earlier this year. "They have more needs than ever before as relief from outside sources continues to decline," says Crutchfield.
An UMCOR grant purchased additional medicines, mosquito nets, laboratory equipment and support Nakuru clinic staff so they can offer medical care 24 hours a day. The grant is also helping to provide other services such as education and counseling - in the words of Rev. Josam Kariuki of Nakuru UMC, "UMCOR has helped to restore the life of thousands of IDP's in Nakuru through medical, food, school uniforms, peace building initiatives, pastoral care, food and counseling."
All services are offered free to those displaced by the violence.
UMCOR is the not-for-profit global humanitarian aid organization of the United Methodist Church. UMCOR is working in more than 80 countries worldwide, including the United States. Our mission, grounded in the teachings of Jesus, is to alleviate human suffering-whether caused by war, conflict or natural disaster, with open hearts and minds to all people.
UMCOR responds to natural or civil disasters that are interruptions of such magnitude that they overwhelm a community's ability to recover on its own.
How You Can Help
*Scott is the communications director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief