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Kenya crisis 2008


Kenyan child in temporary shelter

  • More than 1,000 people were killed and many more injured in violent clashes and rioting across Kenya, following the results of the general elections announced on 30 December 2007.
  • More than 300,000 people were affected and/or displaced – some literally running for their lives as their houses burned to the ground – seeking refuge in police stations, churches and market centres.
  • More than 5,000 Kenyans crossed the border into Uganda, where they were supported by the Ugandan Red Cross. 
  • The British Red Cross appeal supported the international Red Cross response, delivering essential medical equipment, food and non-food items to the wounded and those affected in Kenya and neighbouring countries.


The country was engulfed in violence after the results of the general elections were announced on 30 December 2007. The worst affected areas were the capital, Nairobi; the western provinces of Nyanza, Western and Rift Valley; and the eastern provinces of North Eastern, Eastern and Coast.

A number of towns were completely cut off as roads had been barricaded, making it difficult for humanitarian help and essential supplies to get through.

One of the most serious incidents happened near Eldoret, where a church was attacked and set on fire, killing dozens of people including women and children. According to local reports between 35-40 people died, 42 people sustained severe burns and many remain unaccounted for.

The violence also interrupted the flow of goods, raising fears of serious shortages of essential items such as food and fuel in both Kenya and neighbouring landlocked countries dependent on Kenyan ports and trade routes.

The Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement response

Uganda Red Cross volunteers distributing supplies to Kenyan refugeesThe Kenya Red Cross had put in place an election contingency plan prior to the elections, with more than 500 trained staff and volunteers on high alert throughout the country who were able to respond immediately.

Staff and volunteers worked tirelessly in difficult conditions to give life-saving first aid and evacuate the injured to nearby hospitals. They also helped trace missing people and restored links between people separated from their loved ones.

In response to the extra demands placed on hospitals and clinics, the Red Cross distributed medical kits and drugs to treat wounded people. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Kenya Red Cross both launched appeals to provide additional relief including food, household items and water and sanitation equipment to last several weeks. An ICRC surgeon was sent to the hospital in Eldoret, where the violence had been particularly severe.

Medical assistance was a major priority but people will also needed help for months as many had lost everything - their homes and crops or livestock.

The Uganda Red Cross registered more than 5,000 people who had crossed the border into Uganda. They were being housed in three schools in Lwakaka, Malaba and Busia.

The conditions were very basic but the Uganda Red Cross provided refugees with non-food items such as blankets, sleeping bags, pots and pans, soap and mosquito nets among other relief. It also set up a first aid centre and worked with the ICRC to assess tracing and protection issues.

The Ugandan government provided refugees with some food, and in Busia, local people have gave them maize, beans and grain.

British Red Cross response

The British Red Cross opened an appeal on 4 January 2008 to support the work of the Red Cross Movement on the ground. It raised £148,000.

The Department for International Development (DfID) contributed £2 million:

  • £1m towards the ICRC appeal, which was channelled through the British Red Cross;
  • and £1m which the British Red Cross used to buy 21,000 family kits containing soap, tarpaulins and jerry cans among other relief items.

Last updated July 2011

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