NEWS CENTRE

More suffering for Lodwar

Kenya’s post-election conflict and the worldwide escalation of food prices have added to people’s suffering in Lodwar, reports Sister of Mercy, Yvonne Channells.

The largest town in Kenya’s north-west, Lodwar is a semidesert area, and tragically, drought, famine and poverty are all too familiar experiences for the people here.

“Previously they were able to purchase a very small portion of oil or milk or flour for ten
shillings,” says Yvonne, but “you can now buy absolutely nothing for ten shillings. Mind you, for the majority of the people in our programme, they wouldn’t even have ten shillings. For some, money would seldom if ever actually pass through their hands.”

With support from Mercy Works, Yvonne and a team of local people established a programme which provides nutrition, education and health support for vulnerable children in Lodwar. A large number of these children are orphans who are cared for by a grandparent, relative or friend. Some of them are also HIV positive.

According to Yvonne the number of internally displaced persons in Lodwar is now over
8,000. This sudden increase of “mainly destitute” people has affected the area’s already
strained resources.

“There have been some very nasty incidences in the town with a hardware business burnt down and attempts to burn others. There have also been reports of looting and people receiving threatening letters.

“An attempt by the combined churches to hold a peace march had to be aborted because of serious threats of violence.”

On another occasion a disturbance broke out because a child was accidentally shot. “The
shops were hurriedly closed because of attempted looting. Any vehicle that passed through town was stoned. Police were shooting in the air and people ran in all directions.”

Despite these happenings, Yvonne says the Vulnerable Children’s Programme is able to provide relief, even in a very small way. “The fortnightly food distribution, by our dedicated staff, of maize, beans, cooking oil, rice and salt has continued” as well as “the
distribution of milk and fruit each week at the children’s three afternoon sessions. All this is very minimal but helps keep starvation at bay.”

“There are 105 children in the programme at present plus their older siblings. We were
so sad to lose three children within the last six months. Two died of sickness and one in
an accident. There are always others needing to be included in the programme. With the
other family members, the numbers catered for would be approximately 200.”