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Boston Aid Worker Back From Kenya, Says Situation Still Dire

February 25, 2008

Boston, MA – A Boston woman has seen the situation in Western Kenya firsthand, and says it is dire. Michaela Ledesma, who works at the Mercy Corps offices in Cambridge, has just returned from the East African nation. In late December, Kenya's incumbent president was reelected in a controversial vote that has escalated violence between local tribes. Death toll estimates range from 800 to 1,000 in the past two months.

Ledesma says it didn't take long to realize how desperate the situation is for Kenyans. On the trip from the airport, she saw the effects of post-election violence in the form of burned out homes and cars. Some 300,000 people have fled their homes and she says continuing violence has made it hard for citizens to move around and get basic necessities, like food and fuel.

"Across the board, everyone is very, very concerned about the elections and the political situation. At the same time, of course, they're anxious about meeting their immediate needs, in terms of income, farming and how to make a living."

Ledesma says higher prices for supplies are making them harder to afford, even when they are available. Her Mercy Corps team is doing everything from teaching people handwashing and sanitation skills for disease prevention, to ensuring that they can continue to make a living, whether they return to their homes or relocate.

"We're really trying to focus on, not only the immediate humanitarian needs, although those are obviously very important, but also on trying to think ahead a bit about what people are going to need as they're resettling."

Ledesma believes people are cautiously optimistic that conditions will improve. Mercy Corps has programs in four neighboring countries, and regional headquarters in Kenya. Mercy Corps says Kenya's stability is critical to the entire region, which depends on it for supplies and farm products.

Kevin Clay/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MA