Thursday, 10 January 2008

Sorry it's been a while - Back tracking. 10th January 2008

Hi Everyone,
what can I say its been a bit difficult to get on line here and when I manage the connection goes down. For a number of days I had only been out to town to shop for necessities when the local 'duka' had run out of what I needed. Nakuru had become a bit of a ghost town people staying away more due to bad rumors than actual major problems, although I wouldn't have considered venturing out after dusk. Secure in the knowledge that my guard 'Dominic' turns up every night and the house is a mini 'fort knox'.Things are now back to some form of normality, the shops are re stocking with items and people are out and about their business, although there is still a lot of groups of people discussing the terrible things that have befallen their distant friends and relations in the worst hit areas.

Nick 'my friend and Nakuru taxi driver' is still not back from Kisumu where he visited on a trip between Christmas and New Year. There the trouble has been extremely bad and other than supplying him with phone credit and keeping in touch with messages of hope for him I have heard little, he was hoping that there would be some fuel to the area and he would find it safe enough to travel back to Nakuru today or tomorrow. I wrote the following concerning my efforts to help the situation, little as it is it is all I can manage but it seems well received......

8th January 2008
Having listened to television reports concerning the refugees (or IDP's - Internally Displaced People) arriving in Nakuru after the towns and villages they were living in were ransacked due to the political situation here, I decided action was needed.

Most of the people coming to Nakuru were being attended to in an area called ‘show ground’ this is a bit like the Common in Southampton, an area where Nakuru Show is held and where the boys at Scann were doing their BBC filming last year. It is an area of land that is available for shows and events and is enclosed and entered by admission gates. This is now home to many many hundreds if not thousands of refugees, men, women and children of all ages and tribes.

We were encouraged to give donations of food, clothing, blankets etc etc, I decided as on a tight budget I would provide what medical supplies I had and myself. I was not prepared for the number of small children and tiny babies that I came across. After collecting Ruth (the Bead Lady to those that read my emails last year) she came with boxes of her children's clothes to donate we took a taxi to the donation point. After completing a form I asked if they needed any help. I was eagerly ushered to see a lady in Red Cross uniform who then said I was to take pouches of milk and distribute them to the nursing mothers.

This didn’t seem like a hard task until Ruth and I were faced with the reality, we entered the actual arena where the tents had been erected for temporary accommodation and respite from the burning sun. Wandering around were so many displaced people some with household items piled close by, others with small bundles under their arms, all they possessed. Many, many children with expectant faces looked at us as we went round looking for nursing mothers, do you have any idea how difficult that task was. How can you tell unless the baby is feeding (as the majority of the time they have the babies so tightly attached to them with wraps or lying on blankets covered from the sun).

Eventually the children discovered we were giving milk and they followed us around in droves, it was hard to tell them that they would get different milk later when they are hungry. Mums even took to harsh words when we wouldn't give to toddlers, but there was only so much we had to give.

The next delight was distributing sanitary pads to the women that needed them as obviously they would have no shops to go to to collect anything like that. We were told to split packs and only give two per woman, that went down well. A number of ladies requested pants as the pads were stick on and they had none........ a big problem. I found myself taken to one side by a large contingent of The Nakuru Woman's group, they said I should give at least a pack each woman, 2 just wasn't hygienic. I pointed out that I was aware of this, I had a choice, provide the women in the ground with 2 each or hand a packet to each woman and only give to about 1/4 of them and the others would do without. They silenced and wandered off.

Ruth and I continued our work until the supplies of milk, sanitary towels and soap had been evenly distributed, actually all day. We went home feeling like the problem was too big for us but at least we were helping.

9th January

I went to Scann to see the boys and whilst there was asked by Yasmin to source small baby clothes for the new born's at the IDP camp. I took one of the older boys from Scann, Kibet and headed to the Matumba (local market stalls) they didn't have enough supply so went to a whole sale which provides the bales of items to the stalls, they quoted crazy money and there was no guarantee of how much or what was in the bales. Yasmin decided to buy wholesale and new and supply to the maternity unit at Nakuru showground.

I collected a few items en route, baby one piece body suits, blankets, pants to keep the nappies in one place. I also went to a whole sale shop and bought 36 various pairs of ladies pants!!!!!Arriving at the show ground I found they had now tried to provide a 'nursery unit' this was a long building that was used as a store, one end still was. The new mothers and those with young ones that we had seen in the arena the day before had been taken in.

There were so many, they had been given thin mattresses and they together with their babies and numerous children now had a 'home'. The place was filthy and had no windows only grills. There were a number of mothers who had been so traumatised that they were unable to tackle the simple task of tending their babies.

I watched over two such women, making sure the babies were taken to feed and watch them doing this process. I relieved them of their babies whilst they were taken to the shower and toilet. These two women were under close watch as the babies were beginning to show sign of weight loss and floppiness, no crying or sleeping just watching. Together with the help of another lady volunteer called Elizabeth and Kibet we swept and washed the floor with a stick and rags. Elizabeth offered us a lift into town as I promised they would have mops and disinfectant for the next day. I went home more exhausted but had been able to entertain some of the siblings whilst working.

10th January

Today, I went to Scann to drop off some paperwork then travelled into the show ground alone. I went into the nursery to find that one lady I was helping had been taken to hospital and the second went during the day, her baby's health had deteriorated overnight and when I saw her I recommended that the baby was taken to the clinic for medical attention. I spent the day caring for babies so the mums could have time for washing and tending to washing and changing their other children.

I also became main children's entertainer.... which was OK unless the children were from rural areas and had not been in contact with any white people, those ones screamed and ran or just didn't come anywhere near. They soon learned that the other children were happy climbing over me, playing with my hair and stroking my arms whilst I played funny faces and games with them. I worryed about random toddlers that seemed to spend all day trotting around joining the Q for food and snacks but seemed to have no one specifically looking out for them.... scary, they were changed when I arrived everyday so they must belong to someone. There was a lot of community spirit here, one woman will change another toddlers clothes or nappies if it needs it, suppose that comes from living in a community where polygamy is not uncommon, they all help each other.

I have spent some time 'talking' to traumatised children, they stare blankly and need guiding to stand up and walk, eat and drink, there are two that are what would be lively 8 and 10 year olds sitting like vegetables, occasionally a tear will roll down their face, I sit hold their hand and talk rubbish (not even knowing if they understand) so they have someone near them. It is so so so hard. Elizabeth was held up today and she had the mops and disinfectant in her car.... rags to the ready we sent everyone out on the grass for open air lunch and swept and mopped the building, not a small task.

Today many journalists arrived and one by one they appeared in the building, they all immediately sought me out thinking I am co ordinating the programme for the women. I have to tell them all I am just another pair of hands look for the lady with the Red Cross badge! Many women now turn to me when they need a hand which is nice, they trust me with their babies, a couple have asked me to take their babies. They must be so desperate knowing that life for them will be harder than it was originally and some of them had such poor lives to begin with.

Today I left early knowing that there was little more I could do as they were rearranging the building, trying to keep babies of same age together in one area as it made doctors rounds and caring for them easier. The mums were not happy as they had already established their 'homes'. Time to leave.

Sorry for the heavy insight but thought I would try and share some of what it is like at the moment. Hope for better things for everyone but with the knowledge that it probably will be a lot worse. I am fine, tired and knowing that I need a break and heading out for a few glasses of wine with Ailsa who is visiting for two weeks from Scotland, (any of you who remember she was the i-to-i coordinator from last year that I became friends with), I can't believe that her two weeks are nearly up and she leaves this weekend, she has spent most of her time in the house as I have but staying with Veronica and texting each other! Bad time for her to come over.

Ok well I am off to have a well earned shower....... believe me holding babies that don't have nappies with nappy pins or plastic pants are destined not to keep anything where it should be, I smell lovely!!!

Love to you all, don't worry I am fine.

Susannah xxx

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