A humanitarian crisis is looming in Baringo County after the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) suspended its operations and withdrew all its staff and volunteers citing insecurity.
KRCS said it had made the decision following a confrontation with residents that led to looting of relief food and harassment of its staff and volunteers on Friday at Kampi Samaki.
Seven KRCS vehicles carrying 96.8 metric tonnes of relief food were blocked by the residents and forced to turn back to Marigat.
“It is with a heavy heart that the Kenya Red Cross Society announces the suspension of our activities in Baringo County, as we can no longer guarantee the safety of our staff, volunteers and resources,” stated KRCS Secretary General Abbas Gullet in a statement to newsrooms.
“Our staff and volunteers were threatened by residents despite our assurance that the consignment was headed to Turkana County, and had nothing to do with the current inter-clan conflicts in Baringo,” added Mr Gullet.
But local leaders and residents have warned that the situation will worsen with more than 4,000 people displaced by runaway insecurity, which has left 10 people dead in the past one week alone.
“We appeal to Red Cross to reverse the decision to alleviate the suffering of women, the elderly and children who have fled to camps. They are in dire need of humanitarian assistance,” said Mr Amos Olempaka, a youth leader from Baringo South.
He faulted the government for failing to provide security to escort the Red Cross convoy.
KRCS has been supporting residents with relief food, monthly cash transfers, rehabilitation of waters sources and medical outreaches in Baringo North, Baringo South and Tiaty sub-counties.
The organisation has also been evacuating those wounded in conflict.
“Kenya Red Cross Society may only resume operations when the Baringo County government guarantees the safety of our staff, volunteers and resources.
“I also request the [national] government to intervene and shield the vulnerable residents from the suffering we continue to witness,” said Mr Gullet.
RESIDENTS FREE HOMES
The new spate of attacks has sparked tension among the warring Pokot and Tugen communities with some residents fleeing their homes for fear of revenge attacks.
The violence in Baringo South and Baringo North is believed to have been sparked off by the killing of two Pokot leaders: Loyamorok MCA Fredrick Cheretei and Tiaty parliamentary aspirant Simon Pepee Kitambaa by hooded gunmen in Marigat a week ago.
“Some of our houses were set ablaze by people we suspect to be from the neighbouring Pokot community after the killings. We fled leaving behind all our belongings,” said Ms Jennifer Chemase, who was camping at Nyimbei in Baringo South.
“The situation is so bad. We have been abandoned and we are left wondering if we are any lesser Kenyan. Young children are beginning to contract common flues due to the biting cold and overcrowding.
FEAR OF DISEASE OUTBREAK
“Mosquitoes are having a field day on expectant women and children at night. We also don’t have anything to eat,” said Ms Chemase.
The displaced people have also pitched camp in Bartabwa, Kesumet, Rondinin in Baringo North and Nyimbei Primary and Secondary schools.
Mr Richard Chepchomei, a local, said there is fear of disease outbreak in the camps.
“We call on the government and other well-wishers to assist us with medicine, food and mobile latrines,” he said.
Schools have been turned in to IDP camps with the affected families living in deplorable conditions with poor hygiene and lack of clean water.
“Young children including new-borns and expectant women are sleeping on the floor.
“We fear for outbreak of diseases as our people are now living in the bushes with no blankets, food and mosquito nets. Expectant mothers and children are the worst hit. We call on the government and other well-wishers to come to our aid,” said Mr Chepchomei.
Mr Richard Chepchomei called on the county and the national governments to assist the IDPs to go back to their homes noting that the situation may adversely affect education in the as most of those in camps are school going children.