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Kenyans Continue to Flee Ethnic Post-Election Violence


United Nations aid agencies have begun the first of three interagency missions to areas affected by violence in Kenya this week. The aim of these missions is to get an accurate assessment of the needs of hundreds of thousands of people displaced by post-election riots that broke out last month. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The first mission to Nakuru and Molo will be followed by a second on Wednesday to the port of Mombasa, and will end on Thursday with a visit to Eldoret and Kisumu.

The U.N. aid agencies say the aim of these visits is to identify possible gaps in their humanitarian operations.

More than 200,000 people have been displaced by ethnic violence that erupted after Kenya's disputed presidential election at the end of December.

U.N. Humanitarian spokeswoman, Elizabeth Byrs, says violence goes on and people are continuing to flee to Nakuru in the Rift Valley at a rate of about 1,000 a day. She says the condition for internally displaced people is very difficult because of recent rains, as well as shelter and poor storage of food and other supplies.

"Nutrition rapid screening conducted in five sites in the past week indicates that levels of malnutrition are far higher than expected in this population, with 45 cases of severe malnutrition out of 1,400 children screened," she said. "Food access remains a problem with both commercial and relief food delivery facing logistical and security-related challenges."

The International Organization for Migration has been building shelters for displaced people in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret. Spokeswoman, Jemini Pandya, says more than 11,200 displaced people are in a camp with a maximum capacity of 13,000 people.

If more people flee, she says another camp will have to be built to accommodate them. Pandya says the IOM needs $4 million dollars for the aid effort.

"We are also requesting funds in order to be able to carry out much needed psycho-social assessments and to provide assistance such as counseling and the creation of recreational centers," she said. "Gender-based violence, displacement itself, physical and psychological traumas, as well as the loss of livelihoods will necessitate such assistance, particularly among young children."

Pandya says about half the internally displaced people in the Rift Valley Province are children under age five.