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Humanitarian Aid in Kenya Threatened by Violence

United Nations aid agencies report sharply deteriorating security in Kenya is threatening their ability to provide humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people. The World Food Program says it is neither able to distribute food within Kenya nor to hundreds of thousands of refugees in neighboring countries. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The World Food Program says insecurity in Kenya is hampering humanitarian assistance within the country. WFP says it began an operation to distribute a one-month supply of food to one-quarter of a million people over the weekend.

The agency says the food was for people displaced in the violence torn Rift Valley and to poor people affected by post-election violence in the slum areas of the capital Nairobi.

WFP spokeswoman, Christiane Berthiaume, says the operation was stopped on Monday because of insecurity. She says a convoy of trucks that was set to transport food to Sudan and Uganda also did not go. She says this is of great concern because hundreds of thousands of refugees in those countries depend upon this aid for their survival.

"The truck company that was supposed to leave Mombasa and that we hired to transport our food had refused yesterday and today to leave because of insecurity. We hope to have an escort for a convoy, which will be leaving Nairobi today for the Rift Valley. But, again it depends a lot on the security and on the drivers. It is very dangerous," she said.

Berthiaume notes three trucks that had transported food to displaced people in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret Monday were stoned. She says the drivers fortunately were not hurt.

She says 76 trucks left the Port of Mombasa on Thursday and Friday. The trucks were carrying more than 2,000 tons of food for people within Kenya and for refugees in Uganda and Sudan.

But, the WFP spokeswoman says many of these trucks are stuck because of insecurity on the roads and checkpoints manned by vigilantes who refuse to give them free passage.

If this continues, she says, WFP may have to use a fall back position.

"It is possible to transport food from Dar-es-Salaam [Tanzania] to Kenya, to Sudan and to Uganda. But, it is longer. It will be more expensive and will be not as easy as when you can move freely from Mombasa to all the region," said Berthiaume.

The U.N. refugee agency reports an estimated 6,500 Kenyan refugees have fled to Uganda since the outbreak of post-election violence in Kenya at the end of December.

The agency says it has not seen any signs of more refugees coming over the border. But, it says it does not rule that out and it is preparing for a possible influx of more Kenyan refugees into Uganda.