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NW Group Sends Emergency Team to Kenya

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 By Chris ThomasContact
March 3, 2008

Portland, OR – Portland-based Mercy Corps has a disaster relief team in Kenya to help some of the 300,000 Kenyans displaced by political violence in the past two months. Since their president was re-elected in December amid allegations of fraud, more than a thousand Kenyans have been killed. Last week, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan negotiated a power sharing deal between the president and the opposition leader.

Michaela Ledesma of the Mercy Corps aid team says if the fragile peace doesn't last, the upheaval will threaten several other African nations.

"I would say across the board, everyone is very, very concerned about the political situation; at the same time they're concerned about their immediate needs, in terms of income, farming and however it is they make a living."

The Kenyan Parliament still has to amend the country's constitution to allow the power sharing deal. Ledesma reports that Kenyans are just starting to return to their homes and farms, but many are still in refugee camps. And it's been a challenge for relief workers just to get from place to place.

"Immediately the signs of the violence are just apparent, as soon as you hit the ground. Just on the road from the airport into town, you could see burned-out vehicles, burned-out houses."

Workers have focused on sanitation and clean water to prevent the spread of disease in overcrowded refugee camps. Ledesma emphasizes that because Kenya produces much of the food for the region, it's also important to help farmers get their businesses re-established. Mercy Corps has programs in four neighboring countries as well.

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