Reference : V-P-KE-E-00183
Date : 08/02/2008
Country/Region : KENYA
Caption : Nakuru Stadium. A mother reunited with her child.
Photographer : BARRETT, Bernard Thomas
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : 8-02-2008 Stories from the field
Kenya: helping to heal the anguish of families torn apart
With a large-scale assistance operation in place for people displaced by the violence, the Kenya Red Cross and the ICRC are urgently seeking to locate and re-unite relatives who became separated in the turmoil. Report from Nakuru, in the Rift Valley.

"I was so sad, I could not eat, I thought my sons may already be dead," says Mildred Akinyi. She had just been released from hospital when her village was attacked in mid-January. She describes how she fled with part of her family to a local church, while her two oldest sons fled in another direction. The next morning she went looking for them, without success.

Close to a week later, through the work of the Kenya Red Cross, Mildred was reunited with her sons, Frederick (18) and Washington (16). "I have regained my strength," she says. The family is staying at the Nakuru stadium, in a camp for displaced persons in the Central Rift Valley.

"The Red Cross has helped me a lot," she says, "they found my sons, and here in the camp they are feeding my family, they have given me clothes, and arranged for shelter with a tent."

Rosebella Akinyi, of the Kenya Red Cross, explains: "We are providing food, essential household items, and reinforcing the water and sanitation facilities. An international service organization has provided the tents, while another international NGO is operating a medical clinic in the camp. The Red Cross is offering counselling and psycho-social support as well as tracing services to try to reunite separated families."

One day old – and forced to flee

Elsewhere in the stadium camp, Joshua Odhiambo is resting in a tent with his wife Mary Akoth. Their newborn daughter Willistein lies on a blanket between them. She was one day old when they were forced to flee. "The first night we spent at another camp and slept in the cold," he says. "Our house and possessions were all burned."

The couple has received help from the Red Cross counselling services. "Life in a camp with a newborn is very stressful, particularly for my wife," he explains. "This is not a healthy place for a baby, it's very hot in the tent, and I can't always be here to help her the way she would like." But, he adds, thanks to the Red Cross, at least they have a tent, milk for his wife, and some food.

In another part of Nakuru, the Showground hosts a camp for several thousand displaced people of different ethnic origin from those at the stadium. At the Kenya Red Cross tracing tent, Jane Wangari embraces her 12-year-old daughter Catherine. The two had been separated for over a week, each in different camps, before being reunited by the Red Cross. "I was very worried and couldn't sleep," says the mother. "Everywhere I turned, they told me to go to the Red Cross, and they have helped me a lot."

Others at the Red Cross tracing tent in the Showground camp are still searching. Anne Njoki Mungai balances her struggling two-year-old daughter on her lap. She is looking for her son Joseph, aged 14, who was separated from her on 29 December, the day the election results were announced. "I am still hopeful I will find him," she says.

The ICRC is working with the Kenya Red Cross, helping to train its volunteers and provide support and technical expertise for its tracing activities.

"Not knowing the whereabouts of missing family members, particularly children, can be a very traumatic experience," says Caroline Rouvroy, the ICRC's Protection Coordinator in Nairobi. "That is why tracing is a basic Red Cross service in times of disaster or conflict anywhere in the world."

Original material : digital
Resolution : 3072x2304
Orientation : landscape
Colour/B&W : colour