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Demonstrations in Nairobi Disrupt Aid Operations


The U.N. refugee agency says it has had to cancel planned distributions of essential relief supplies to thousands of displaced people in Kenya because of the demonstrations in the capital Nairobi. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva the UNHCR says it will resume its humanitarian operations as soon as possible.

The U.N. refugee agency says it flew in tons of humanitarian supplies from its stockpiles in Dubai to Nairobi on Thursday. It says the supplies, which include thousands of bales of plastic sheeting for shelter, mosquito nets and 15 generators, were to be distributed to Kenyans displaced by the post-election violence last month.

U.N. refugee spokesman, William Spindler, says two trucks loaded with hundreds of family kits were set to go to Eldoret in the Rift Valley and to Nakuru. But, both operations, he says were cancelled because of the demonstrations in Nairobi.

"We have no control over the situation there, so it is very difficult to know exactly when we will be able to carry on with our work," said Spindler. "This obviously affects not only us, but all the humanitarian effort in Kenya."

"I cannot tell when the situation will improve. We hope we will be able to carry out our work as soon as it is feasible. At the moment, as you can imagine, the situation is very difficult because of the large number of people who have been affected by the unrest," he continued.

More than 200,000 people have been displaced by the violence and an estimated 600 killed. The U.N. Children's Fund says it believes children comprise at least 100,000 of the displaced.

In a telephone interview from Nairobi, UNICEF Chief of Communications, Sara Cameron, tells VOA less food is available in the country because many shops have been burned down and supplies are not getting through.

Because of the food shortages, she says UNICEF believes hundreds of thousands of people throughout Kenya, not just the displaced, are actually affected by the crisis.

"We have been in the worst affected areas," said Cameron. We found children and parents alike are really very, very deeply distressed by what has happened. There have been children here who have seen their homes set ablaze, often by the neighbors who they have known all their lives, who have come in and burned their houses down."

"And, they have had to run for their lives. Sometimes with their feet with just what they had on their backs at the time and they have lost absolutely everything. And, some children have seen their parents, their loved ones, their neighbors brutally killed," she added.

Cameron says the outlook for children is very bleak. Even before this crisis, she says about one third of Kenya's children were malnourished. And, now malnutrition rates are rising.

She says the children are living in terrible conditions in makeshift camps. And, this, she says puts them at risk of diseases, especially respiratory illness and measles.

She says UNICEF is concerned that children in such vulnerable situations are open to sexual exploitation, of being drawn into child labor and of being separated from their families.

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