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Kenya Displaced Face Health Risk


The World Health Organization says it is very concerned for the health of tens of thousands of people who fled their homes following post-election violence in Kenya at the end of December. WHO reports people displaced by ethnic clashes in the Rift Valley lack critical health care. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from WHO headquarters in Geneva.

More than 800 people have been killed and many more injured since ethnic riots broke out in Kenya following the disputed presidential election on December 27. An estimated quarter of a million people have fled their homes. Most are living in makeshift camps or with host communities in Kenya's Rift Valley.

The United Nations estimates more than 75 percent of the internally displaced are women and children. It says many of the children are orphaned or have been separated from their families.

A Spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, Fadela Chaib, tells VOA water and sanitation conditions in the camps are dire. She says the WHO is concerned this will lead to water and food-borne diseases.

"For the time being, we have no confirmed information about epidemics. But we are afraid about measles because people are living in crowded conditions, and also about the spread of HIV/AIDS because of the cases of rape and gender sexual violence. We are also afraid that people will die because they do not have access to life saving drugs, especially for people who are sick from diabetes, for example. They need regular daily treatments," she said.

Chaib says the World Health Organization, along with the Kenyan Red Cross and other partners, is helping the Kenyan Ministry of Health assess the health needs.

She says the team is looking at the situation in over 60 makeshift camps to find out what medicines are needed and what the most pressing health needs are. She says people are moving around so much it is difficult to know what they need.

"Kenya is quite a poor country. The maternal mortality is very high. It is one of the highest in the world. The mortality under-five is very high too," added Chaib. "Malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, acute respiratory infection are the main health threats in the country. With this violence, our fear is that people will not get the care they need."

The World Health Organization is appealing for an initial two million dollars to provide drugs and health care services for more than 90,000 people displaced in the Rift Valley.

Chaib says it is already clear there is a shortage of antibiotics, children's medicines, malaria medicines and life-saving drugs for chronic diseases including asthma, hypertension and diabetes.

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