16 January 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference to launch flash appeal seeking more than $40 million


in humanitarian, early-recovery aid for 500,000 kenyans

 


John Holmes, United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, announced today that the world body was appealing to international donors for nearly $42 million to provide humanitarian and early-recovery assistance to some 500,000 Kenyans affected by post-election violence.


Mr. Holmes, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said at a Headquarters press conference that he had just returned from a meeting with some 25 traditional donors where he had presented the flash appeal for $41.8 million to launch a six-month immediate-needs and recovery plan for Kenya.  That figure included an initial allocation last week of $7 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).  The effort would support 63 separate projects that would be handled by 22 organizations, divided in roughly equal measure between United Nations agencies (34 projects), non-governmental organizations (25 projects) on the ground and the International Organization for Migration (4 projects).


Providing some details about the distribution of funds, he said food aid was the single largest part of the appeal, at more that $10 million.  Projects in that area had been designed to meet the food needs of roughly 250,000 people over the next three months.  The World Food Programme (WFP) had already been heavily engaged in providing food to the victims, the large majority of whom had been displaced when the initial spate of violence erupted in the aftermath of disputes over presidential election results announced just before the new year.


Additionally, some $6.5 million would be allocated to emergency shelter, Mr. Holmes said, noting that providing shelter for people displaced from their homes and now gathered in groups of varying sizes throughout the country was “a major problem”.  The idea was, therefore, to provide basic tents, plastic sheeting and other items such as cooking utensils, mosquito nets, soap and other sanitary items for up to 100,000 people.  The appeal would also cover early recovery projects focused on ensuring that the displaced could continue their livelihoods.


For example, he said, seeds, tools and other basic equipment or necessities would be distributed to help farmers resume their livelihoods in new places where they may have been forced to settle or at home, where their crops may have been destroyed.  The hope was to pave the way for income-generating activities of any kind and income support for internally displaced persons, “a very important part of the rehabilitation process which we hope will be under way”.


Reiterating that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) saw the situation in Kenya as a “protection-of-civilians crisis” as much as one of humanitarian consequences, he said some $3.6 million of the appeal would be targeted towards protection initiatives.  “We hope very much that the situation will not deteriorate and that the violence can be stemmed […] and that there will not be a spiral down into the kind of ethnic violence we’ve seen in other countries in the region,” he added.


“This is not bodyguards we’re talking about,” he stressed.  Rather it was the treatment of those traumatized by the violence, especially children.  To that end, OCHA and its partners aimed to make sure -- including through registration, advice on legal redress and land ownership -– that humanitarian actors had a “clearer picture” of those who had been displaced.  The initiative would also aim to document violence and bolster efforts to treat victims, particularly women who had suffered sexual violence.  That had been a “very unfortunate but prominent feature” in the immediate wake of the elections.


Mr. Holmes went on to say that health and primary care were also important elements of the appeal, which included not only help for the injured but also vaccinations for the displaced, disease surveillance, reproductive health supplies and treatment for rape victims.  A “large chunk” of the funds, about $3 million, would go towards water and sanitation efforts, including the provision of jerry cans, buckets, water purification tablets, mobile latrines and the like, for up to 100,000 people.  A related allocation of nearly $3 million would be earmarked for a well-coordinated response in case the need for camp management arose in places where the displaced had gathered.  Although OCHA had not yet witnessed the formation of large-scale camps, it was nevertheless on alert because there were large numbers of displaced people in and around Eldoret, among other places.


He stressed that some of the gatherings he had reported last week had dispersed, though not to their ancestral homes but to other areas, so the agency did not have as good a picture of the immediate needs of those populations as it would like.  Still, those needs had been included in the appeal because OCHA assumed that they and their host communities would need assistance in the weeks and months to come.   The appeal would also target obvious areas like nutrition and emergency education, which was a very important part of trauma recovery.


Responding to questions, he stressed his feeling that donors would respond “generously” to the appeal, which was purely humanitarian in nature.  “You may have read that some countries are considering whether to link development aid to political solutions in Kenya.  I think it’s clear that humanitarian aid is in a different category and even those who may be thinking about reducing or putting conditions on development aid would be very happy to provide humanitarian aid, given the significant needs we have all seen.”


He added:  “Obviously what we want is a return to normality, a political solution as soon as possible and […] every effort to be made by all leaders and everyone concerned […] to prevent violence, extend protection to all civilians of all kinds and to stop any downward spiral of ethnic or other violence that may be difficult to reverse once it’s [started].”  It was also necessary to ensure the safe and unhindered access of relief workers to all the people in need.


Asked if the situation showed signs of sinking into genocide, he cautioned that the word was “neither appropriate nor helpful” in the present instance.  Clearly there were concerns about the type of ethnic-based violence that had been witnessed in the early going, and the lessons learned from neighbouring countries were well worth considering.  “[But] we are not in a Rwanda-type situation and it is not appropriate to make those comparisons, certainly not at this stage.”


At the same time, he continued, OCHA was appealing to all people to be conscious of the dangers and do everything they could, whatever their views about the political situation, to put an end to the violence and try and resolve their differences peacefully through political dialogue.  While there was no fear that the situation would slide into genocide, the word had been used by some people, although OCHA had been careful not to use it.  “At the moment, I don’t believe it is in any way approaching such a thing.”


Asked whether the humanitarian situation was better or worse than it had been immediately after the announcement of the presidential election results, he said “better or worse” was perhaps not the way to look at it.  What was clear was that humanitarian actors were much better able now than in the immediate aftermath of the elections to respond to people’s needs.  “The food, the water and the health care are getting through -- not to everybody yet and not as good as we would like, but we are much better placed because the transport is better and our people on the ground are there to provide help.”


He went on to say that OCHA and its partners were still dealing with the victims of the initial wave of violence and it remained to be seen what would happen as rallies and demonstrations continued.  There had been some ongoing problems, but nothing like in the immediate aftermath, and when there were reports that the death toll was rising, it was not because large numbers of people were being killed but because humanitarian workers and officials were now able to firm up the figures and identify those who had perished in the initial violence.


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For information media • not an official record