Kenya faces health crisis

Supplies and aid running dangerously low amid political deadlock over disputed poll.

    More than 300 people have died in the post-election violence [AFP]

    Looters in one of the major tea-growing areas in the Rift Valley attacked Unilever's Chebown tea estate on Wednesday and Thursday, causing workers at it and all the surrounding farms to flee, Reuters news agency said.

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    Pictures: Fleeing the fighting


    A Reuters photographer at Unilever's Chebown tea estate said looters torched the farm's tractors and trucks, looted and burned its storage facility and tried to burn the tea plants, but were foiled by cold, moist weather.

     

    Determined opposition

     

    With Kenya facing a grim humanitarian situation, there appeared no sign of an end to the political impasse.

     

    Raila Odinga, the leader of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODC), once again rejected an offer of a national unity government from Mwai Kibaki, the president.

    He repeated his assertion that he would not enter into negotiations with the government until Kibaki acknowledged defeat. Odinga accuses Kibaki of stealing the December 27 vote.

    "Kibaki knows very well he lost an election," Odinga told Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow.

    "I think it is like an insult to the people of Kenya by suggesting he is being generous with his offer of a national unity government."

     

    He denied his party was exacerbationg the violence and that his supporters were responsible for deadly attacks on members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe in the west of the country.

     

    'Appeal to people'

    "I have made an appeal to people to desist [from violence] but we need to address the problem which is a rigged election," Odinga said.

    "We are a peaceful people. We want to have a lasting solution.The government has armed terrorist groups and militia and is responsible for these killings."

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    The government immediately denied Odinga's allegations that its supporters were responsible for arming groups responsible for the killings.

    "It is a real shame that Raila Odinga can come up with such allegations he knows very well that most of those dispalced and killed were government supporters," Uhuru Kenyatta, a senior Kibaki aide, said.

    Kenyatta said it was not feasible that the government would send guns againt its own people.

     

    Washington's Africa envoy is pushing Kenya's leaders to resolve the electoral row.

     

    Jendayi Frazer, the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, on Sunday shuttled between the rival political camps in a bid to unblock the stalemate.


    Desmond Tutu, the South African Nobel peace laureate, also took part in the negotiations.

    Low supplies


    Meanwhile Wubeshet Woldermariam, Merlin's country director for Kenya, said that humanitarian supplies were dangerously low.

    "Food and clean water supplies are now running dangerously low,  especially in and around [the western city of] Kisumu," he said in a statement.

     

    "People are being forced to drink unsafe water, risking diarrhoeal diseases, infection and dehydration. The longer the crisis continues, the greater the risk to people's health."

    Odinga has blamed the government for
    the continuing violence


    "If peace isn't restored within the next few days, disease outbreaks and severe dehydration are very real threats," the charity warned.

    The UN estimates that the chaos may have displaced 250,000 Kenyans, some 100,000 of whom need immediate help in the western Rift Valley region.

    The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has pledged to provide aid.

    The World Food Programme (WFP) said insecurity and roadblocks set up by vigilante groups have prevented food trucks from the port city of Mombasa from reaching their destinations.

     

    "At the moment we have not had a problem in food distribution but if this situation continues then food will not get delivered on time," a WFP spokesman said in a statement.

    The government has instructed the military to escort trucks delivering supplies to avoid highway ambushes.

    The UN Children's Fund, Unicef, said many hospitals in the disaster zones were in need of medical supplies to treat a wide range of injuries and conditions.

    "Supplies and staff are needed to treat victims of shooting, burning, beating, slashing and trampling," Sara Cameron, Unicef's communication officer in Kenya, said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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