More than 700 people dead and countless injured in what can only be described as horrific attacks. More than 250,000 people displaced from their homes.

 

A NATION IN TURMOIL : Top: The remains of the home of one Compassion-assisted child in the Kiambiyu slum, after it was burned; and bottom: A family takes refuge at an emergency camp.

 

Compassion Australia has undertaken raise $35,000 to help in the relief, rehabilitation and recovery efforts of those affected by this humanitarian disaster as part of Compassion’s international appeal target of $250,000. To find out how you can contribute, visit www.compassion.com.au

Compassion International has also released a 25-minute radio special, Kenya: Pray for the Children, containing first-hand accounts of how Compassion's work in Kenya has been affected and what actions are being taken to reach out to children, as well as from church leaders who tell us what our role should be in this crisis. Visit www.oneplace.com/ministries/speak_up_with_compassion/

The toll in terms of lives and properties damaged or destroyed in the violence that swept across the Kenya following a presidential election in late December is staggering and has led many observers around the world to wonder what it will mean for the East African nation in the long-term.

But as some of the country’s biggest overseas aid donors warned that aid could be threatened if the situation is not properly resolved, there were some hopeful signs this week that the country will be able to move forward with President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, leader of the opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement, coming together in what it is hoped is more than a symbolic handshake following mediation efforts by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Yet, for those most affected by the violence of the past month - those who have lost family members or property - there remains a long road ahead.

Kenyan Emily Kagiri is director of Compassion International's Child Survival Program which is aimed at caring for children aged under five both physically and spiritually. 

In Australia this week, Ms Kagiri says she was shocked to hear of the violence in Kenya.

“Kenya is one nation that is actually known in the whole of Africa as a very peaceful nation,” says Ms Kagiri, who only left Kenya to take up her new role in the US about six months ago after working for Compassion inside the African country for a number of years and is now based Colorado in the United States.

“Other nations, when they fight and they have chaos, they come to Kenya as a safe place for them to live in but right now, this has turned the other way around. It has shocked everybody because this is something that was obviously not expected. But there are times when we look on to God and ask ‘Why?’ What lesson do you want us to learn from this?’

Nairobi’s slums were among the places most affected in the violence, including those of Mathare and Kibera - the latter, a place where there are tens of thousands of AIDS orphans and where the child mortality rate is five to seven times higher than Kenya’s national average.

Compassion say they are aware of 75 families they have connection with the organisation who were directly affected by the violence as well as 29 of it’s child development centres.

“We really thank God that Kenya has a lot of churches and people who are out to help,” she say. “The churches are actually acting as a safe haven for these families. It doesn’t matter whether they are members or not or whether they are coming from really far. But they are coming into the church compound and that is where they are finding refuge.”

Ms Kagiri says the Christian community in Kenya is also working with supermarkets in providing goods for the displaced families.

Compassion International is now seeking to raise $250,000 to help in the rehabilitation and recovery of displaced families.

Ms Kagiri says that the violence and turmoil such as has been seen in Kenya inevitably makes like harder for the youngest and most vulnerable in a society, particularly those aged under five - the group she works with.

“Babies are helpless, they are dependent on their parents. These parents, their houses now have been burnt down, they have been sent out of their environment, out of their farms, out of their homes. They have nothing with them.”

She says her heart is heavy given that she knows babies with displaced families in Kenya are now at risk of being exposed to diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea and vomiting, malaria and even measles.

Ms Kagiri urged people to be praying for peace and agreement among the leadership in Kenya.

“(Because) when the leadership fight, it’s definitely the common man who suffers,” she says.

She also asked for people to pray that God would provide for those families that have been displaced.

“By the time they go back to their homes and I can foresee that some of the won’t even have homes any more. So they will need a lot of money to reconstruct their homes. And also that they are accepted back to where they were chased from is also a prayer item.”

Ms Kagiri is optimistic about Kenya’s future.

“I see peace; I see God teaching Christians and believers and spiritual leaders something out of what is happening now and I see God transforming that nation to be something different,” she says.

“Because there are times when we bring in people who have been affected (by violence and war) but we have never faced the same ourselves. But this time around I believe that whoever comes to Kenya for refuge will be taken and received differently because we’ve already had an experience of it ourselves. 

“So I take it personally as a learning lesson from God for us to understand and see people different and I see it as a turning point for Kenya to be whatever God wants that nation to be in that continent.”