'Good Samaritans' chip in to help unrest victims

When violence erupted in Narok district after the declaration of the disputed results of Kenya's presidential elections in December, 38 people sought refuge in the home of the Anglican bishop of Kericho, Jackson ole Sapit.

"For the first four days they spent the nights outside my house - sleeping on the grass, no roof, no blankets - because they were non-Maasai and people had started threatening them. We shared food - I had some maize, chicken and goats, and some of them would go out during the day and come back with some food," the bishop told IRIN.

When thousands of people started turning up at the Nakuru Showgrounds after fleeing violence in other areas of the Rift Valley, Jesse Njoroge, who runs a restaurant in the compound, came to their aid.

"There were more than 1,000 people who had nothing to eat, and I found myself in the middle of it all," said Njoroge. "I was in a position to help because I had some resources. I did it for the first three days before the Red Cross came in," said Njoroge, who has taken up the role of a displaced persons' camp coordinator by dint of being the first "relief worker" on the scene.

Numerous local initiatives have raised substantial amounts of money, food and materials to support the relief effort now under way to bring succour to an estimated 290,000 internally displaced people.

The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) said it has so far received donations worth 139.5 million Kenyan shillings (US$1.9 million) in cash and in kind from local donors, including the general public and the private sector. Churches and supermarkets have also been receiving donations. A local radio station has been challenging members of parliament to "put your money where somebody's mouth is" by sending their donations.

"The response from the local community has been generous. People have been cooking food in their own homes and taking it to the centres accommodating those displaced," said Sapit, who was instrumental in setting up an aid-coordinating committee that has brought together several relief agencies now providing assistance to almost 1,000 displaced people in three sites in Narok district.

"I know of three displaced teachers who have volunteered to teach children from displaced families in Mulot [Narok district]," he said.

More than 100 donors arrived on 31 January in the first three hours of a three-day blood donation exercise organised by KRCS in Nairobi. Most of the injured have been slashed with pangas (machetes) or shot with arrows and would have lost large quantities of blood before reaching hospital.

''People have been cooking food in their own homes and taking it to the centres accommodating those displaced''

"I came because I know that my blood will save a life," said Paul Burugu, a 19-year-old college student, after donating blood at the memorial erected in honour of victims of the US embassy bombing in Nairobi in 1997. "A lot of people have been injured and they need blood. We all have the same blood, whatever our ethnicity," Burugu added.

However, arsonists did not spare Njoroge's property when violence spread to Nakuru.

"A block of rooms I was renting out was burnt. My mother was living in one of the rooms but she managed to escape," said Njoroge, adding that he was now a "broke man. If I can't help any more, I feel bad," he said.

At the official level, President Mwai Kibaki on 30 January launched an initiative, dubbed the National Humanitarian Fund for Mitigation of Effects and Resettlement of Victims of Post-2007 Election Violence, with an initial capital allocation of one billion Kenyan shillings ($13.9 million) from the state.

"The object and purpose of this fund is to provide funding for the resettlement of persons displaced as a result of the violence; the replacement of basic household effects destroyed as a result of the violence as well as providing the resources needed to enable victims of the violence to restart their normal lives," said Kibaki, appealing to Kenya's development partners, relief organisations and the general public to contribute generously.

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