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9 January 2008
Over 3,500 people who have fled violence in Kenya have crossed the border into Uganda. The refugees have taken shelter in schools which are closed for the holidays. "It is a miserable sight - people are just sitting silently in groups in the shade under trees," said Laurence Lutaaya, head of communications at Uganda Red Cross. "Uganda Red Cross volunteers are playing football with the children - they don't realise the situation as much as their parents.
Lutaaya had visited the Malaba today (9 Jan), which is the site of a teacher training institute. A total of 3,704 people have been registered by the Uganda Red Cross with the majority in Malaba, Busia and Bukwa and now receiving support from the Ugandan Red Cross.
"People are shocked and stunned by what has happened to them. They've fled with nothing, just their children. I spoke to one trader who was burnt out of his property. He had to flee and crossed the border with his children. There's complete uncertainty about when they can go back."
He described how some people were given first aid when they arrived over the border. A child was born in the Malaba camp, but the mother had complications and the baby is now in intensive care.
Lutaaya added: "Conditions at the Malaba camp are very basic. At night people are lying on floors with a sleeping bag or blanket. The government is preparing boreholes to provide additional water. The Ugandan Red Cross has been providing non-food items such as, blankets, sleeping bags, saucepans, jerry cans, soap, mosquito nets, cups and plates."
Andrew Omale, Uganda Red Cross operations manager, who has been working with the refugees. Omale said: "The influx of refugees took us unawares as it happened so quickly but we had stock that we were able to distribute immediately."
Andrew has years of experience working with refugees and displaced people, most recently as a result of internal conflict between Ugandan armed forces and the Lord's Resistance Army. He described how people are sympathetic with the refugees' plight and have been welcoming. Omale said: "In Busia the local community held an appeal to provide food to the refugees, collecting Maize, beans and grain."
Andrew said. "I saw an 11-year-old girl yesterday in Lwakaka who said she saw her mother, father and sister killed. She thinks her brothers have also been killed and she is now all alone. She is now being cared for by another family. But we have heard lots of stories of orphans and in many cases women whose husbands have been killed. Many people don't know where their relatives are."
The British Red Cross has launched an appeal to help people affected by the violence in Kenya. Monies raised by the appeal will be used to support people in Uganda and Kenya. People can make donation by going to www.redcross.org.uk/kenyacrisisappeal or by calling 0845 054 7200.