Kenya Crisis – My first emergency deployment
Monday 19th October
I have been called up by the Emergencies Team for deployment to Kenya for the Kenya food crisis response. The whole of East Africa is experiencing a third year of failed rains leaving over 20 million people without enough to eat, and the situation is expected to deteriorate. There is just one week until I leave, so I’m off to the travel clinic for a full medical to check I’m fit to go, stock up on malaria tablets and have the vaccinations I need.
Monday 26th October
I arrived in Nairobi this morning and headed straight for Save the Children UK’s Kenya Programme Office, which they share with Save the Children Canada. I was met with a warm welcome – everyone is so friendly which has helped to settle in. Within an hour of arriving I was given a security briefing, which has put me slightly on edge: Nairobi’s status is tense due to the aftermath of the post-election violence and so there are certain areas considered at risk of terrorist attacks which we must avoid, and there is a 2200hrs curfew to be back in our compound. We’re never allowed to walk out at night and must always keep car doors locked and windows up because armed carjackings are extremely frequent.
Out in the field bases the security threats are much greater: there is a curfew of 1700hrs in place for return from our outreach programmes and everyone must travel in convoy in certain areas. This makes logistics a real challenge for the teams up there and constant monitoring of the situation is crucial.
In the afternoon I caught up with Hannah, the wonderfully enthusiastic Information Intern who I’ll be managing and had an introductory meeting with Rob the Emergency Operations Director, to bring me up to speed with the response strategy. There is a huge up-scaling of our programmes about to happen in the Wajir district and so it is all hands to the deck to get this moving fast, so we can have a greater impact for children in these areas. Our task seems ridiculously overwhelming….
I am sharing an apartment with Anne, the HR Advisor and Rob. Living with the big boss will be a new and unusual experience, but my first night here began with Rob cooking us all dinner, so I think I’ll get used to this!
Thursday 29th October
The last few days have been a steep learning curve.The internet connection has been a nightmare – my emails have not come through for hours on end, loading websites is painfully slow and so has hindered my progress slightly but am getting used to it and today the connection seems to have improved.
The role here is already proving extremely interesting and varied: I’m trying to coordinate a programme visit for Spencer Conway, a guy who is embarking on a circumnavigation of Africa on a motorbike for Save the Children, he will travel through 28 countries and cover more than 25,000 miles of the most difficult riding terrain and through some of the most unstable countries on earth, what an amazing thing to do!
I’ve fed back info to head office for the Fragile States Project quarterly report; drafted letters to the Government to inform them our alliance emergency appeal launch, and attended the Kenya Food Security Meeting (KFSM) with all of the relevant Government Ministries, and other NGOs, which was fascinating to see how the systems all work in practice. On the drive back to the office a herd of cows were grazing along the side of the road, it was unbelievably surreal to witness in the middle of a city. Duncan, the driver told me that sightings like these have been extremely common since the droughts and that people have walked for days and weeks to get to the city where there is still some vegetation for their cattle to eat.
This only brings home just how awful the situation is here, and how harsh the impact must be for all those families living in remote locations.