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In place for the long haul back to recovery

Concern is planning ahead for the long term, and for Kenyas future needs, writes Hugh Oram in the Irish Times, published 4 February 2008.

Taking a long-term view, Concern’s deputy regional director, Ciunas Bunworth, says that while much of their effort is going into providing immediate humanitarian aid to the food and shelter needs of displaced people in the worst affected areas – the slums of Nairobi, towns in the Rift Valley and elsewhere in western Kenya – the longer-term rehabilitation and recovery needs are still being assessed.

“This is a long process, and could take us to the end of 2008 or even into 2009,” she explains.

In the meantime, Concern already has a number of ongoing programmes in Kenya, where it has been working actively since 2002. In its education and HIV and AIDS programmes, it is working with local partner organisations in the Nairobi slums and in the Kisumu and Nyanza areas, all of which have been affected in the present crisis.

“Our initial response has been to support these local partners, who are based in the slums, with the delivery of food and other basic supplies. We are also advocating greater food supplies from the World Food Programme,” Bunworth continues.

Concern has also funded transport to help people move to safer areas, while it is also working with additional partner organisations in the Rift Valley, with grants for food, shelter and medical needs.

Bunworth says that the needs of people in the Nairobi slums are particularly acute, as more than 60 per cent of the Kenyan capital’s population of about 3.5 million live in these slums. Life expectancy in Kenya is still low, about 45 years.

Economic activity almost stopped

For many people living in the slums, particularly those depending on getting work on a daily basis, the crisis has made their poverty even worse, because economic activity in parts of Nairobi has almost stopped. For instance, the tourism industry, a bulwark of the Kenyan economy, has come to a virtual standstill. The flower industry, an important export staple, is also under threat. Workers can’t get to the flower farms, and sending the flowers by road to the airport for export is now much disrupted and often dangerous. In the Rift Valley and in Nyanza and Western provinces, the needs are just as great as those in the vast slums of Nairobi.

The immediate reponse on the part of Concern has been multifaceted. It is continuing to supply food and other basics to people in the Nairobi slums, while it is working with the Kenyan Red Cross to distribute food and other essentials in Kisumu, the main town in Nyanza province. Concern is continuing to monitor the humanitarian support for displaced people in the Kitale diocese.

Community based nutrition programme

It is working with the Kenyan Ministry of Health to put in place a commmunity-based nutrition programme for the severely malnourished. Concern’s input is to train and assist Kenyan health workers implementing the programme. Where possible, recovery programmes are being put in place to help displaced people to be reintegrated back into their communities. Says Bunworth: “This has already started, as one of our Kenyan partners provides counselling services for children affected by the violence, as well as providing Dignity kits for women and girls. These include such essentials as underwear, sanitary pads, combs and toothbrushes.”

A crucial approach is the Community Therapeutic Care (CTC) programme,*  which is a revolutionary approach to dealing with severely malnourished children. These children are helped at home, rather than having them go to specialised nutrition rehabilitation units. The child recovers in his or her own environment, with minimised family disruption.

Kenya has another emerging problem, in the northeast of the country, where a severe drought is affecting people’s livelihoods. People there are still recovering from a serious drought in 2006, when Concern responded in a major way, including repairs to water sources and supporting an animal feed programme for donkeys, which are essential to daily livelihoods.

*Since 2011, CTC has been known as community management of acute malnutrition, or CMAM.