Drawing attention to Mt Elgon violence has been difficult
23 June 2008
Why is MSF speaking out on the situation in Mount Elgon? "Over the past year, we have seen some horrific things taking place in Mount Elgon. The people are literally trapped between violent militia groups and a brutal police and military campaign. "Since mid-2006, the militia have extorted and stolen from the people - money, property and land. They raid homes and use violence to assert their authority. The police and, more recently, the military have met this in kind, eventually resorting to indiscriminate detainment and torture of large numbers of men from the communities on the assumption that they could be, or have information on, militia members' whereabouts. "At the height of the violence, the militia were raiding homes at night and the police during the day. There was no respite for the people living in Mount Elgon and tens of thousands have fled in fear." If the situation has been so bad for so long, why is it now that MSF has decided to speak out? "Actually, we have repeatedly tried to draw attention to this crisis, but so far to no avail. Outside the Kenyan border, no one really knows what's going on and it's vital that the people of Mount Elgon get help fast - their needs are huge and MSF cannot meet them all. "People are without basics such as food and shelter. Often their houses have been burnt down and anything they owned has been taken or destroyed. Those who have fled are living in rough terrain in the freezing cold. The small groups of people who are returning to their villages are coming home to nothing. They have lost their land, tools and farm equipment." If people are returning, does it mean that the situation is improving? "While it is quieter now than in March, April and early May, people still live in fear. The causes of this crisis have not been addressed and, until they are, there is no knowing when things could flare up again. So far, the solution to violence has only been more violence and while this is the case, the situation is unlikely to improve." What are MSF teams doing in Mount Elgon? "MSF is providing emergency medical care in the local communities, as well as supplying some plastic sheeting, blankets and clothes. Many clinics and health centres had been abandoned by the Ministry of Health staff due to fear and intimidation, so we have made healthcare available here whilst also taking mobile clinics to more isolated areas. "Due to the nature of the conflict and the terrain, it can be a real struggle for people to get medical care. With so many displaced people living in such exposed conditions, this is a really big problem. We are dealing with a lot of chest infections and illness due to exposure to damp and cold, but also injuries from violence and torture. On top of this, we are providing counselling for groups and individuals affected by the violence. These people have been through a lot. "While it is extremely important that MSF is able to provide medical care and support, the people of Mount Elgon need so much more. That is why this report is so important - others need to respond to this crisis." Read the report here MSF has been working in Mount Elgon since April 2007.