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Video The international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is calling for an immediate increase in assistance for the people of Mount Elgon in western Kenya, and an end to the indiscriminate violence they have been enduring for almost two years. Since August 2006, the civilian population of Mount Elgon has been trapped in the violent conflict between the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) militia, which took up arms over a land allocation scheme it considers unfair, and the Kenyan authorities. Tens of thousands have been displaced. Many have lived through atrocities, mutilation, and loss. Today the people of Mount Elgon are still struggling to cope. They live in an environment of insecurity, and lack access to basic services, clothing, sufficient food, shelter and blankets. Many are exposed to the cold nights of the highlands, and depend on help from other local communities to survive.
Photo: Simon Burroughs, MSF-Belgium | The international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is calling for an immediate increase in assistance for the people of Mount Elgon in western Kenya, and an end to the indiscriminate violence they have been enduring for almost two years.

MSF has been providing medical and humanitarian relief to people living in the Mount Elgon district since April 2007. During this time, the organization has repeatedly drawn attention to the violent crisis. Faced with a population that is traumatized by years of violence and struggling with unfulfilled humanitarian needs, MSF feels compelled to speak out. "Medical aid alone cannot answer the numerous needs of the people in Mount Elgon," says MSF head of mission Rémi Carrier. "They require protection from violence, increased assistance, and for more attention to be paid to their plight." The authorities’ main response to the unrest has been to meet violence with violence, culminating in a joint police-military operation launched on March 9, 2008. During this operation the conflict intensified, and civilians endured attacks, torture and degrading treatment. "Since the beginning of our activities, our medical teams in Mount Elgon have seen and treated victims of violent trauma, especially from last summer onwards. But it really peaked after the launch of the operation, with more than 250 injured people treated in the month that followed," explains Carrier. "These victims, mostly adult men, had been injured while being screened for alleged involvement in the militia. For civilians already traumatised, repeatedly displaced and radically impoverished for almost two years now, this has only reinforced their trauma."

Photo: Simon Burroughs, MSF-Belgium

Meanwhile, people continue to fear violence from the SLDF militia, too. One woman who was attacked in mid-April and treated by MSF explains: "We have been attacked by four young men on the road. They beat us with pangas [machetes] and told us to lie down on the ground. One man died and I was unconscious. While they were beating us, they said: Tell them that the militia men are still alive." Today, as some people return home, the coping mechanisms of the residents and the displaced are stretched to their limit. MSF is calling for an immediate increase in assistance and protection from violence for these people, in order to allow them to restart their lives. As long as violence is met with more violence, with no attempt to address the root causes of the conflict, the situation is unlikely to improve and the suffering will continue. ************** MSF is one of the few humanitarian organizations providing assistance to people affected by the conflict in Mount Elgon. Since April 2007 MSF has provided free medical care through support to primary healthcare facilities. and through mobile clinics in more remote areas. MSF has also established a hospital referral system for medical emergencies and distributed clothes and blankets. More information on the crisis in Mount Elgon and stories from affected people can be found in an MSF report titled "Mount Elgon : Does anybody care?", from May 2008, on: http://www.msf.org/source/countries/africa/kenya/2008/MSF_MtElgon_May200...

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