Mulanda Report

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Dr Moses T Batwala
Vice President
Doctors For Africa
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16th March 2008

Dear Sir/Madam,

            Re: Report on DFA Vice President’s humanitarian visit to the Uganda Red Cross Kenya Refugee Camp in Mulanda (Kenya-Uganda Border)

The Vice President, Dr Moses Batwala, was initially meant to visit Kampala Uganda, to assess the progress of Doctors For Africa (DFA) in the setting up of Free Ante-natal Clinics for women of low-income families in Kampala. However a major humanitarian crisis developed in Kenya following wide spread violence after the disputed elections in Kenya. Several members of DFA originally hail from Kenya and were not immune to the unravelling chaos that was displayed on TV sets on popular British Television. They therefore requested that the Vice president also visits a Refugee camp on the Uganda side of the Kenya –Uganda border where close to 6000 Kenyan refugees had been displaced.

Dr Batwala made contact with the Uganda Red-Cross, which run the Refugee camp travelled to the site in an area called Mulanda, which was 25 kilometres from the border itself and about 200miles from Kampala, the capital of Uganda.

Road to Mulanda
Kampala-Malaba Road. (On the way to the Refugee Camp)


The camp was moved from the Uganda border for security reasons as militias from the Kenya side had attempted to cross the border to attack the displaced persons and also poison the food that was usually prepared centrally. Below is his report.

“I travelled to the camp in early February 2008 and met up with Mr Peter Omale, head of the Uganda Red-cross disaster response team who was my guide in the camp. The camp was facilitated by a joint effort of the Uganda Red-Cross (URC), United Nations High Commission For Refugees (UNHCR), The Uganda Government, Save the Children (STC) and PLAN Uganda. The Overall Lead for the camp, I was informed, was the UNHCR, which co-ordinated all the other charities work. All the interested parties held daily meetings to generate greater cohesion.

The land that the camp was set-up on was on a local Japhadhula farmer’s 10-acre cassava plantation, which he allowed to be chopped down. As far as anyone knew the farmer had not asked or been given any compensation for the use of this land and it seemed a genuine humanitarian act of goodwill.

The report will now be divided into the different aspects of the camp I assessed and the good-points and areas that need addressing.

Shelter:
Pros:
Shelter was provided for each individual family by heavy-duty tents provided by UNHCR. They were clean, warm and tardy and kept out the elements. The Displaced people I spoke to were genuinely grateful for the shelter provided in such difficult circumstances at such short notice.

Mulanda Refugee Camp
The Mulanda Refugee Camp.

Mulanda daily chores
Women carrying out daily chores in the Mulanda Camp.

Each family had its own tent and were provided with adequate mattresses and beddings. Despite the saga of ethnic cleansing in Kenya, the peoples in the camps of whom the majority were Kikuyu, were not segregated, indeed there were Iteso, Luo and Kalenjin as well who were all settled side by side. Some had requested segregation, but Mr Omale said this request was strongly turned down by the camp authorities that saw all as displaced people.
Mulanda Pit Latrines
Toilets in the Camp. Simple, but clean pit-latrines.

Cons:
There were health and safety issues about the individual tents as the ropes that held up the tents had metallic studs in the ground that were not protected and had caused injuries to young children playing around the tents. Also stoves had been run into by playing children causing burn injuries.

Safety Concerns
Safety concerns raised about open charcoal stoves and metallic spikes in ground to hold up Camp tents
Food:
Each Family had an individual charcoal stove and had a week’s supply of adequate food and charcoal for fuel provided by URC weekly. This was done also for security following the attempted poisoning incident of the food that was prepared centrally at the previous camp. The families were quite satisfied with this arrangement.

Mulanda Family Narrate
A Family narrating about experience in the camp while preparing lunch.

Security:
The Uganda government provided Armed police to guard the camp. The people were allowed to leave the camp freely as they pleased with no curfew after identifying themselves to the guards. There was only a small trading centre in easy walking distance with the closet town, Tororo, being 20 kilometres away.

Mulanda Security Patrol
Ugandan Soldier patrols the perimeter of the camp

 

Health Care:
The Camp was situated 300 meters from a local health centre. This was done so that medical care was in close proximity. Health care was free of charge for the refugees. This Health care centre was what normally provided care for the local residents of Mulanda. The basics of Maternity, paediatric and acute medical and surgical treatment were provided.

Mulanda Health Centre
The “Mulanda Health Centre” with Ambulance in the foreground.

However at best of times, even before the refugees arrived, these health facilities are usually over stretched. The medical staff felt overwhelmed by the shear numbers they had to look after. The drug stores are usually very bare and now had an extra burden.


Mulanda Medical Ward
Beds on the medical ward.

Some of the Refugees had chronic illnesses like Diabetes, hypothyroidism, and asthma. There was no insulin or thyroxine, the basic treatment for these conditions, available.

Mulanda Jaundice Child
A very jaundiced (bright yellow eyes) 2 year child with hepato-splenomegaly (enlarged liver and spleen) with failure to thrive.

Mulanda Maternity Wing
The “Maternity Wing” at Mulanda Helath Centre.
Mulanda Paediatric Ward
The “Paediatric Ward”

An ambulance meant to transfer very ill patients to a tertiary hospital 20 kilometers away had no fuel to perform this duty. This was compounded by the fuel crisis due to the trouble in Kenya. Staffs of the Red Cross and UNHCR were helping with this duty and PLAN was providing fuel.

Children:

 

Education:
Children between 3 and 16 years had a “Safe” area constructed by “Save the Children” where they could play all day under the watchful eye of “Save the Children”. Indeed this was one of the glowing aspects of the camp. The children were well looked after and fed and could play in a safe environment. There were even plans to enrol the children in the Uganda “Free” universal education schools. There were some questions about how easy it would be to integrate them, but these semantics were being addressed.

Mulanda Safe Area
The Children’s “safe area”.

Mulanda Mid Morning
Children having mid-morning tea break.

 

Children Counselling:
More worrying was the psychological impact on the children. Many had seen events no child their age should have had to experience. Some had family members or friends killed or maimed. Others had neighbours previously friendly for years attack them. Indeed they were my main concern. A 5-year-old Kikuyu boy told me the reason they fled Kenya was because “evil” Kalengin and Luo’s had attacked them. If this idea of a person being evil because of their tribe is allowed to foster in this generation, the future for Kenya will be bleak. I was unable to determine whether there would be any post-traumatic counselling for these children, but I really doubt it as just getting the basics needs seemed, and rightly so, the priority of the Agencies.

Mulanda girl narrates
A young girl narrates her experience of the post-election violence in western Kenya that forced her family to flee to Uganda.

Adults:
Although the camp provided shelter, accommodation and food for the adults, there was little in the form of work or recreation available. Many of the adults had had stable well-paid jobs in the different towns they had fled in Kenya. I met an Accountant from Eldoret, a Dentist from Nakuru, A Farm manager from Molo who previously managed 20 workers, a pharmacist from Kericho, a store manager from Malaba, you name the profession, most professions were represented. These were professional people who were very active in their professions. They had lost their livelihood and belongings. Now, all they did in the camp was gossip, prepare food and sleep. This compounded by the traumatic nature in which they fled Kenya. 

This idleness and post trauma stress had led to a lot of residents in the camp to alcohol and drug abuse, which then fuelled crime in the camp (mainly petty crime like stealing). Some sold their beddings and food to fund their drug habits, while others stole from fellow refugees to find money for illicit drugs. There is clearly a need for Adult Counselling, Recreation and Work.

Resettlement and Asylum needs have to be addressed. Some of the families I spoke to, mainly Kikuyu said they had stayed in Towns of Western Kenya for well over 10 years and had neighbours they had been friends with for scores of years. They could not fathom how some of their “friends” had turned against them due to politics.

Mulanda Adult Life
Daily Life in the camp is difficult to adjust to for some adults.

I spoke to “Peter” (not real name) a 35 year old Kikuyu farmer from Molo. He used to own a farm with sheep and cattle. He had a wife and 2 children, the youngest 2 years old. He had 18 workers on his farm, all non-Kikuyu. Some had protected him during the troubles and helped smuggle him to Uganda, but also some attacked his house and looted his property.

Peter no longer saw a future in Kenya for himself or his family in Kenya. He said his tribal area in central Kenya was already over-populated and he would not be able to set up a farm like he had in Molo. He had family in the UK he wanted to contact, but did not have the means to. He had neither contacted his parents in Kenya and did not know whether they to were safe or not.

Overall View:
There is an urgent need for additional help in this camp. Indeed as I write this report, I have received word of more refugees fleeing into Uganda despite the power sharing deal of the main political parties. The health facilities need bolstering with staff, equipment and staff. More broad thinking into the eventual resettlement of these people needs to be considered as clearly many of them no longer consider Kenya a place they want to return to

Kind Regards

M Batwala
Dr Moses T Batwala
Vice President
Doctors For Africa

Monday the 11th. DFA Charity Registration No. 1125670. Campaign for Affordable Medical Solutions
Copyright 2012

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