Trócaire Blog


April 26, 2017

East Africa hunger crisis in 5 stark numbers

​Prolonged drought is causing a widespread hunger crisis across East African countries. Somalia, South Sudan and parts of Ethiopia and Kenya are the worst affected.

Mary Akoye

Mary Akoye is one of 12,000 people in Yirol East State receiving monthly food rations from Trócaire and its partner CAFOD.

The numbers of people exposed to severe food shortages and hunger are stark and difficult to process. However, with a strong, unified effort, governments and NGOs could deliver the support needed to prevent widespread famine.

1. Over 20 million people in the region are experiencing ‘severe food insecurity’ according to UN estimates. And this is set to rise even further, following a poor March to May rainy season.  

2. 6.2 million Somalis, half the population, are experiencing severe food insecurity. The conditions are being compared to 2010-11, when famine took the lives of 250,000 people there. 

3. 5.5 million South Sudanese are expected to be in need of urgent food support by the height of the ‘hungry season’ in July. 100,000 people are facing starvation in parts of South Sudan where famine has officially been declared. An additional one million people are on the brink of famine. 

4. 5.6 million Ethiopians require emergency food assistance in southern Ethiopia, in addition to the 7 million who are already receiving government support.

5. 2.7 million Kenyans are in need of emergency support. A national disaster has been declared in Kenya, with the government appealing for international assistance. 

Trócaire’s response in the region

Trócaire is engaged in a major humanitarian response in East Africa.

In Somalia, we are focused on healthcare and tackling outbreaks of potentially lethal cholera and acute watery diarrhoea.

Trócaire has a strong, long-established presence in the Gedo region in southern Somalia.

We currently fund and run three hospitals, 10 primary health units and four health centres there.

We are also supplying clean water to 15 schools and three hospitals in the region.

We are working in partnership with other international NGOs in the country to deliver large-scale nutrition support to malnourished children, and pregnant and nursing women.

In South Sudan, Trócaire is providing monthly food rations to 12,000 of the most vulnerable people in Adior and Pagarau Counties of Yirol East State.

We are hoping to reach more people in the coming months with food aid and cash transfers, as well as repairing water boreholes in the East Lakes State. 

In Ethiopia, Trócaire is currently providing food aid and support to help preserve livelihoods to 58,500 of the most vulnerable individuals (9,765 households).

And in Kenya, we are currently trucking water to six schools in Barpello, East Pokot (Baringo County), as well as delivering supplementary feeding for 2,000 children in three medical units in Loima, Turkana County. We are working to secure funds to scale up our response in the country.

More information and updates on the situation in East Africa.

February 16, 2017

70 million hit by extreme food shortages

Extreme food shortages are occurring across a number of African countries, with large areas of East Africa worst affected.

Tabu Ruth at Bidi Bidi refugee camp

South Sudanese refugee Tabu Ruth brings water to her father outside the family’s new home in Bidi Bidi camp in Uganda. Photo by Tommy Trenchard for Caritas.

The severity and scale of the crisis is unprecedented in recent decades. 

Conflict and drought have combined to leave 17 million people in East Africa alone requiring immediate emergency food aid.

The two worst affected countries in the region are Somalia and South Sudan, but parts of Ethiopia and Kenya are also badly hit.

How bad the situation gets will largely depend on whether the rains come over the next few weeks. However, even if they do come, there will still be a five month gap when people have little or nothing to eat before the next harvest.

How did it get this bad?

Ongoing conflict in South Sudan and Somalia has displaced millions of people and severely disrupted the food system.

Climate change is also a huge factor. The region is experiencing a prolonged drought due to the failure of rainy seasons. Without the rain, crops have not grown.

South Sudan – one in three people left hungry

Over 4.5 million people in South Sudan will require emergency food aid over the coming months. As it stands, one in every three people in the country does not have enough food.

An estimated 675,000 people are currently classified as being in emergency.

Somalia – a repeat of 2011?

Over 5 million people in Somalia are in need of emergency aid. The situation threatens a repeat of 2011, when a famine in the country cost the lives of 250,000 people.

At the moment, 320,000 children under age five are acutely malnourished, of which 50,000 are severely malnourished.

What is Trócaire doing?

Trócaire has teams working in all four affected countries – South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. We are bringing emergency food aid into the worst-hit communities and helping people to survive the current crisis.

As needs grow, we want to expand our emergency aid projects.

You can help us donating today

December 10, 2016

Human Rights Day 2016 - Standing up for human rights

by Leigh Brady, Trocaire’s Global Governance and Human Rights Advisor

Today on International Human Rights Day 2016, I feel privileged that I get to defend human rights and support the fight for justice every day as part of my job.

In 2016, I became Trócaire’s Global Governance and Human Rights Advisor. It sounds fancy, right? I suppose you are asking yourself what it actually means though…

My job involves a lot of different things but in essence I provide support and guidance to Trócaire staff in 15 countries around the world who are in turn providing support and guidance to ordinary people, usually the most vulnerable and most marginalised, on the front lines fighting for their rights and the rights of others.

People like Rosemary and Stephen, Agnes, Peter and Albert, Edina and Moses, Eduardo and Berta who are active in holding their government to account for better services in their communities, speaking out against injustice, and trying to protect their natural resources and keep their environment healthy and safe.

Visiting human rights defenders in 5 countries

Trócaire’s human rights support comes in many forms depending on what is needed most, but can range from monitoring and documenting human rights violations, civic education, specialised skills training, mentoring, legal services, providing spaces for people to raise their voices, organise and make proposals, the chance to work as part of a wider network and physical accompaniment for those who are most at risk of being attacked because of their work.

This year I visited 5 countries where Trócaire is providing such supports – Uganda, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Kenya.

They were inspiring and enriching trips where I learnt a lot and probably received more than I gave. I met with women and men, young and old, who have learnt through Trócaire about their rights as citizens and how to put that knowledge into practice by demanding better services and protections from their governments.

I heard firsthand about their hard-earned achievements, borne of perseverance and immense courage.

West Pokot County, Kenya

West Pokot women, Kenya

Photo caption: Women from West Pokot, Kenya, who use dance and songs to educate the community against FGM.​

In a tiny rural town called Psigor in West Pokot County, Kenya, a group of local residents managed to achieve real improvements to their local hospital by carrying out a survey among patients, patient caregivers and health care professionals and discussing the findings with the hospital directors.

They also sent a petition to the local parliament asking their representatives to ensure the improvements were sustained.

The group of residents behind the initiative call themselves “Bunge La Mwananchi” – the Citizen’s Parliament and include women and men representing different interest groups, such as youth, people living with disabilities and the elderly.

This is just one example of some of the amazing stories I had the honour of hearing in 2016.

El Paraíso, Honduras

Community Human Rights Defenders Honduras

Photo caption: A group of trained community human rights defenders in Honduras, who make up a network of human rights defenders for their province, El Paraíso. Second from left is José Alfredo Coto, from Trócaire Honduras.

I met another inspiring group of human rights defenders in the east of Honduras, in a border province called El Paraíso, which in English means “Paradise”.

Ironically, this province could be more aptly described as “hell” given its context of daily violence, entrenched corruption and impunity for crimes.

This group of residents have been trained as a local network of human rights defenders – they monitor and document incidents of corruption, violence and criminal activity. They submit formal complaints to the local authorities and come together to discuss cases that may need to be taken up with the authorities at national level.

These brave individuals face many threats as a result of this work.

Three thoughts on human rights from 2016

Looking back over the year and reflecting on the human rights work that Trócaire supports and enables, three thoughts stand out:

1. We enable the most vulnerable people to fight for their basic rights, and defend themselves against threats to their homes, families, health, communities, livelihoods and environment. This is a job they do without pay in most cases and which is aimed at improving their lives but also those of others around them. What they do is not only a service to their community, but to humanity.

2. They can’t do it alone. They join forces locally to face powerful threats, gross injustice and a dangerous climate of destructive behaviour, violence, corruption and impunity. They know there is strength in numbers and they believe in people power. They call on us to support their struggle.

3. We can’t do it alone. We need as many people joining the fight for justice as possible. Keep supporting Trócaire so we can keep supporting Rosemary and Stephen, Agnes, Peter and Albert, Edina and Moses, Eduardo and Berta and countless others, whose courage and commitment are an inspiration for us all.

December 06, 2016

Honey money: Beekeeping provides new livelihoods in drought-prone Kenya

Members of Mwasuma beekeepers in Kitui

Photo caption: Mwasuma Beekeepers; Tabitha Komu, Dorcus Kenyatta and Nzomo Musyoka from Kitui, Kenya.

Dorcas Kenyatta (pictured above, centre) lives in Kitui County, one of the most arid areas in Kenya. Following her husband's death, she struggled to support her family.

Many Kenyan’s are reliant on subsistence farming and more than 43% are living in poverty. Many are also affected by long periods of drought. Trócaire has been working with local communities in Kenya for the past 40 years to encourage and enable sustainable livelihoods.

Beekeeping is a livelihood that offers strong benefits to people like Dorcas. Not only is it a sustainable activity, it has the additional positive impact of helping to pollinate crops.

Give a sustainable Trócaire gift to someone like Dorcas this Christmas

Dorcas kenyatta with her honey

Photo Caption: Dorcas displays her honey produce, Kitui, 2016

Dorcas, her family and members of her community received training in beekeeping and the necessary supplies to get started. Soon, Dorcas became the Chair of her local beekeepers group, who call themselves Mwasuma. 

Each of the 20 Mwasuma beekeepers have been trained in hygienic methods of honey production and processing. They have five hives each from which they can harvest around 10 kilograms of honey annually. Beekeeping has become an important income generating activity in Kitui and supports the community by the sale of honey, beeswax for candles and soap. 

Dorcas said: “Members have been maintaining their hives and the quantity and quality of honey harvested has improved. We eventually hope to open a honey processing factory in our area.”

honey bees

The introduction of the freestanding, low to ground, ‘Langstroth’ hive, which can be placed on a small patch of ground close to home, has also made beekeeping far more accessible to women as, previously, the work involved climbing trees to access hives - an unacceptable practice for women in Dorcas’ culture.

Dorcas added: “More women are involved in decisions about harvesting, selling and the use of honey money.  Now we are part of this, not just watching the men from the side-lines.”

“The beekeeping and honey harvesting is carried out during the day along with household chores. This means I can support my family as both a mother and a provider.”

honey bees

Photo caption: Annabel (3), Jess Walker (4) and James (2) help to promote the Trócaire Gift of Beehives in Maynooth, Co Kildare.

The Trócaire Gift of Beehives provides a family with training, bees, hives, flowering plants and water. Once the bees move in, families can earn money selling honey and beeswax for candles and soap.

Find out more about giving an ethical gift this Christmas to support people in developing countries.

February 12, 2016

Degrees of separation in rural Kenya

Climate change is leading to significant migration in Kenya, dividing loved-ones and driving families apart. Meet Teresina, whose husband Julius has been forced to move hundred of miles away to earn an income to keep his children in school.

It’s said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. As couples around the world look forward to celebrating Valentine’s Day, Teresina Karimi from Kenya dreams of being with her husband, who lives hundreds of miles away.

Teresina (45) with her youngest son Amos outside their home in Tharaka Nithi

Caption: Teresina (45) with her son Amos (11) outside their home in Tharaka Nithi​

“I miss him but there are no options here. There is nothing else that we can do,” Teresina Karimi (45) says, sheltering under the rim of her thatched roof. The burning sun has come out in the lowlands of Mount Kenya and Teresina points to her patchy crop of vegetables, which is drying up and turning yellow.

A year ago, Teresina’s husband, Julius, moved permanently to live and work on a large commercial farm, three hours away. Year after year, they watched drought attack their land, their soil becoming lifeless and their crops parched and limp. Migrating was the only possible way to put the last two of their five children through school.

Teresina (45) farms her land during drought in Tharaka Nithi, Kenya

Caption: Teresina (45) farms her land during drought in Tharaka Nithi, Kenya

Teresina has known Julius since they played together as children. Years later, when Julius moved away, they wrote to each other. Now, because of climate change, they are apart once more.

 “Up to 80% of families in this region do not have enough food,” says Abraham Maruta, Deputy Director of Trócaire's partner Caritas in Meru Diocese, which is developing irrigation systems for poor families with Trócaire support. 

“When crops fail, people sell what they have, animals, land and any other assets to get cash, until eventually they have nothing to fall back on and a member of the family has to migrate.”

Teresina Karini (45) farms her drought-prone land in Tharaka Nithi

Caption: Teresina in her village in Tharaka Nithi

Teresina finds support from a local women’s group, which comes together to help each other save money, cultivate each other’s land and tender for casual work like construction. “It’s hard on your own,” says group treasurer, Helen Kende. “But when you come together you can help each other plan. Our greatest desire is to get the children through school.” 

Teresina Karini (45) collects water from the river in Tharaka Nithi. Her family will drink this water and use it for washing.

Caption: Teresina collects water from the river in Tharaka Nithi. Her family will drink this water and use it for washing

Julius comes home every three months for three days at a time. “The kids run to him and embrace him because it has been so long since they last saw him, Teresina says. "I feel sad when he leaves but I can’t prevent it because if we both stay at home, the kids will not be able to go to school.”

The only thing that could unite Teresina and Julius for good is water. “I would like to see irrigation on my land. If I had irrigation, I could plant more crops and harvest.” Maybe then Julius could come home and they could farm together again on the land on which they met.

Teresina Karini (45) outside her home in Tharaka Nithi

Caption: Teresina and a neighbour outside her home in Tharaka Nithi

Trócaire is helping families in Kenya to return to their land and grow food with irrigation schemes that water crops all year round.

Please support our work in Kenya this Lent.

January 06, 2015

Working for peace in Northern Kenya

Trócaire's Michelle Hoctor writes about Father Patrick Devine, a Trócaire partner working on conflict issues in Northern Kenya.

Roscommon-born Fr Patrick Devine has had many profound experiences during his 25 years working in Africa as a priest with the Society of African Missions. This includes development work in remote areas of Northern Kenya (a region two and a half times the size of Ireland) and teaching about conflict-related issues.  

Honoured in 2014 by Roscommon County Council for his peacekeeping work, Fr Devine says "Our work is not about a quick fix, we have put our hands to the plough for the long haul to secure enduring peace."

Northern Kenya, which is home to Fr Devine, has been seriously impacted by generations of violence.

Millions of people are suffering from the impact of local, inter-ethnic conflicts.  These conflicts within communities have been caused by all kinds of issues, ranging from a scarcity of natural resources to differences in peoples’ cultures to neglect by the state to ease of access to small fire arms.  "Famine," Fr Devine says, "is never further than two weeks away."

He adds: "In conflict environments where people are killed, maimed and displaced, social and religious values such as peace, justice and truth cannot take deep root; people cannot live normal lives or experience true peace.” 

Father Patrick Devine

Fr Patrick Devine on a recent visit to the Edward M Kennedy Institute for Conflict Intervention at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

In 2009, Fr Devine established the Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation which is supported by Trócaire.  

The work of the Centre, which includes people of all faiths, has been very positive. It engages with community leaders and others around the root causes of local problems and journeys with them to resolve their issues with the aim of coming to a permanent and positive peace. Its work has been acknowledged not just in Kenya, but internationally.

In 2013, Fr Devine received the prestigious International Caring Award in Washington DC. Previous recipients of this accolade include the Dalai Lama.

"Positive peace," says Fr Devine, "is all about people seeing the benefits on all sides."

The need to manage tensions and disputes was particularly evident during the 2007/2008 post-election violence in Kenya.

After the 2013 elections in Kenya, the Centre saw the success of its work in preventing post-election violence.  The Centre worked with government, civic and religious institutions to achieve this outcome – “the benefits of which were incalculable,” according to Éamonn Meehan, Executive Director of Trócaire. 

The Shalom Centre continues to work with individuals, groups and ethnic communities to examine the root causes of conflict through education. It aims to offer solutions through providing peace-building skills and problem-solving workshops.

The Centre has trained over 120 key opinion leaders from the different ethnic groups on the techniques necessary for conflict prevention.   

While continuing its programme - and also research - into the conflicts in Eastern Africa, the Shalom Centre also provides school building materials and solar lighting, underlining the importance of education in the road map to peace.  

These schools (because of their solar lights) also double up as evening community centres, giving people the opportunity to come together in a neighbourly way to discuss issues of concern or local needs. 

"There is no conflict group that doesn't want a better future for themselves and for their children,” concludes Fr Devine.

Visit the Shalom Centre website to find out more about its work

November 05, 2014

Ireland’s carbon emissions equal to that of 400 million of the world’s poor

"Climate change threatens to undo all the gains that have been made against poverty", according to Trócaire's new in-depth report ‘Feeling the Heat: How climate change is driving extreme weather in the developing world'.

The report published today (Wednesday, 5 November) analyses of the impact of climate change on the developing world and calls for the Irish government to introduce binding targets to reduce Ireland’s carbon footprint.feeling the heat trocaire climate change report

It was officially launched today by Alan Kelly, Minister for the Environment and Local Government.

Speaking at the launch, Trócaire Executive Director Éamonn Meehan said:

“People in Ireland emit an average of 8.8 metric tonnes of carbon each year compared to just 0.1 metric tonne for Ethiopians. Each Irish person is responsible for as much carbon emissions as 88 Ethiopians, meaning that it would take 404 million Ethiopians – over four times the population of the country – to match Ireland’s carbon footprint.

“Ireland is significantly off-track for meeting our 2020 emission reduction targets. Given that we are the eighth highest carbon emitter per capita in Europe, and the 35th highest globally, we need to step-up to the plate. We need a binding roadmap to guide Ireland towards a fossil-free economy and we need investment in sustainable lifestyles that give people the options they need to reduce their carbon footprint.”

‘Feeling the Heat’ analyses the impact of climate change in five developing countries: the Philippines, Ethiopia, Malawi, Honduras and Kenya. The report is released on the week that marks the first anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan, which resulted in over 6,000 deaths in the Philippines last November.

Amongst the report’s findings for the Philippines are:

  • At least 75 million people in the Philippines are at direct risk from the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels, storms and damage to agriculture.
  • Temperatures in the Philippines have risen by 0.64 degree Celsius since 1951.
  • There has been a significant increase in weather extremes, with regular drought during dry spells and floods during wet seasons.
  • Without urgent remedial action temperatures in the Philippines will rise by 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, with even the ‘best case scenario’ predicting a 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature by the end of 2100.
  • A 4 degree Celsius rise in temperature will significantly increase both the intensity and frequency of storms in the Philippines, putting millions of people at risk.
  • Impacts on agriculture will cost the Philippines 2.2 per cent of GDP annually by 2100.
  • The report concludes that climate change in the Philippines is set to result in “more malnutrition, higher poverty levels and possibly heightened social unrest and conflict in certain areas in the country due to loss of land.”


Amongst the report’s other findings are:

  • 90% of the population of Malawi are at risk of hunger due to drought. Rainfall in Malawi could fall by as much as 25 per cent by the end of the century.
  • Floods and storms have increased in frequency in Honduras, with 65 extreme weather events recorded in the last 20 years at a cost of $4.7bn.
  • Yields from food crops in Honduras will drop by up to 10 per cent by 2020 due to increased drought.
  • Rainfall in Kenya has reduced significantly over the last 30 years and temperatures are set to rise by up to 4.5 degrees Celsius by 2100.
  • Net economic costs of climate change could be equivalent to a loss of almost 3 per cent of GDP each year by 2030 in Kenya.
  • Agricultural output in Ethiopia could fall by as much as 10 per cent as a result of climate change.
  • The growing season in Ethiopia has already reduced by 15 per cent as a result of drought.


Commenting on the report’s findings, Éamonn Meehan said: “This report brings home the reality of the impacts of climate change on people’s lives. Climate change is not just a scientific concept or a threat for the future, it is very real and it is affecting people today.

“The most recent IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report has warned that climate change will increase poverty and hunger over the coming decades. What our research shows is that this is already happening to a frightening degree. The poorest and most vulnerable people in the world are on the front lines and are seeing their ability to grow food and earn an income diminish by the day.

“Climate change threatens to undo all the gains that have been made against poverty over recent decades. It is the single biggest threat to humanity but yet the political system has refused to move quickly enough to address it.”

Read the full report: ‘Feeling the Heat: How climate change is driving extreme weather in the developing world'


October 20, 2014

Almost seven years on, where is the justice for Kenya's victims of post-election violence?

By James Mwangi, Governance and Human Rights Officer in Kenya, and Julian Waagensen, Governance and Human Rights Policy Officer 


9 October 2014: Huge crowds shout themselves hoarse along the major streets of Nairobi as the presidential motorcade slithers from the airport to the city centre.


The President, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his Deputy, William Rutu, are in crisp shirts, riding in an open roof state limousine. These two men share more than smart dressing and state power, however. They are both suspects in the International Criminal Court (ICC), facing a variety of charges.


The crowds had gathered to welcome the country’s President back from the Hague, where he had become the first serving Head of State to appear before the ICC.


For the masses here and millions of other Kenyans, the period between December 2007 and February 2008 will forever be etched in their memory. Kenya experienced ethnic violence sparked by the hotly-contested presidential election, which saw opposition leader Raila Odinga and his supporters reject the victory of incumbent Mwai Kibaki, claiming widespread election rigging.


Peaceful protests gave way to horrific, widespread and systematic violence, which included the burning down of houses, machete attacks, beatings, rapes and police shootings. Approximately 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 people were displaced into temporary camps. 


The ICC intervened and indicted six Kenyans, including Kenyatta, who had been a close ally of Kibaki. There was a general feeling that the victims of the violence would get some closure.


The ICC cases became a campaign issue in the 2013 election. The protagonists across the political divide put all effort to derive political capital from it. Kenyatta ultimately proved successful and was elected President, following in the footsteps of his father, Jomo, who led the country following its independence from Britain.


At the ICC, the defence and the prosecution were busy exchanging legal arguments. Uhuru Kenyatta’s case has already been postponed five times. On 8th October, the prosecution was asking for an indefinite postponement on account of the Kenyan government’s non-cooperation. Kenyatta’s lawyers want the case dismissed due to lack of evidence. The opposition meanwhile believes the Kenyan government is sabotaging the case now that the suspects are in power.


kibera slums kenya

The Kibera slum in Nairobi was one of the worst affected by violence following the disputed election in December 2007. Photo: Eoghan Rice


As the political posturing and the academic debate over the finer points of international law continue, it is all too easy to forget the surviving victims of the violence, who are no closer to having the full truth about what happened and who was responsible. They have seen no justice for the crimes committed, and have seen no or little reparation (a term that includes both compensation and rehabilitation) for the crimes committed against them.


It is almost seven years since the end of the post-election violence. As it fades ever further into history, it is imperative to ensure that victims are not forgotten and that they do not continue to suffer the effects of the violence because not enough is done to ensure their right to truth, justice and reparation.


The defence, the suspects, the lawyers, the lobbyists and the political opposition continue to make all the arguments. 


In the meantime, who is mourning the dead and the rape victims?


Who will tell the story of the orphaned?  



Victims of Kenya’s post-election violence recall their experiences:


Tom Wainaina


I left home on 30th December 2007 for a toy market but before I got there I noticed people were gathering in groups and decided to turn around and go back home.


On reaching Mashimoni (a slum in Nairobi), I met a group of men and boys. One of them shouted “here is another one”. They pounced on me and in the process tore off my shirt. They started to beat me up, they tied up my hands and started asking for paraffin so that they burn me as they wanted to finish me completely.


Lucky, another group came to my rescue. They threw me into the sewage drainage to put out the fire and went to look for means to take me to hospital. They found a driver who agreed to come and I woke up to find myself in the ICU at Kenyatta National Hospital.


‘Mama Anna’


My neighbour came running telling us there was a group of youths approaching our plot and they were wielding machetes. We all rushed and locked ourselves in [but] they scaled the wall and entered. I hid under the bed. I could hear someone telling others the tribes of the occupants of the houses. They forcibly entered the house. They saw me under the bed and pulled me out.


I asked them what they were doing [and] they told me they were doing the work Kibaki asked them to do. They told me if I dared to scream they would kill me. They violated me as others held me, I then lost consciousness and I later got up and found I was stark naked.


I know my violators as they were my neighbours.  They did not turn off my phone after stealing it and when my children called they told them to go and collect my body at the mortuary.


Officers from the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) came. I gave them the names of the perpetrators. I even showed them where the perpetrators live. They were never arrested. 


July 08, 2013

An oasis of hope for people affected by HIV in Mukuru

By Catherine Khamali, Kenya HIV Officer

Trócaire is supporting a health clinic assisting the HIV positive community in the Mukuru slum, Nairobi, Kenya. The clinic has helped more than 30,000 people in just 3 years.

The Mukuru slum is a winding maze of narrow alleyways and aluminium shacks. Located just 10 kilometres from the centre of Nairobi, Mukuru is a world away from the traffic jams of the Kenyan capital. Here, many of the mud tracks that run through the slum are too narrow for cars.

It is, however, a hive of activity. Market stalls fill every available space. The 600,000 people who live on this small piece of land bump shoulders and elbows as they go about their day. Amid the visible signs of poverty that strike you everywhere you look, the thing that really hits you is the complete lack of personal space or privacy.

Poverty has invisible signs, too. Over 1.6 million Kenyans are living with HIV. Many of them live here and in the other slum areas of the city.

This is the reason why the Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM) decided to set up a clinic to assist the HIV positive community. Working as a professional team, staff and community workers provide services where clients are treated with dignity.

They meet, greet and screen all clinic visitors ensuring they are welcomed and supported through their visit, whether it is for HIV counselling and testing, TB testing, antenatal services, or growth monitoring for children under the age of five.

Trócaire has supported this project, helping to ensure that over a period of just three years more than 30,000 people accessed this service.

Community health workers are a backbone of the clinic and its outreach services.  These health workers run support groups for men and women living with HIV, and also go into the community to raise awareness of issues related to being HIV positive, especially for pregnant women.

Mukuru, Kenya

Mukuru, Kenya

Captions. Top:  Like many women in Kenya, Felistus tested positive for HIV when she was pregnant. The counselling Felistus received at the MMM clinic helped her accept her HIV status. When her daughter, Grace, was 18 months old she tested negative, she was free from HIV.

Bottom: Elizabeth found out she was living with HIV when she was pregnant with her son Wyclef. She was tested at the Trócaire supported Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM) and received treatment to prevent transmission of HIV to her child.

The community workers also conduct regular talks in schools. This outreach work is of crucial importance in a country where stigma and discrimination continue to impede effective HIV responses. Between 2008 and 2011, 56 % of people living with HIV reported being verbally abused as a result of their HIV status.

However, great strides are being made in Kenya. The country has doubled its domestic HIV spending. Between 2008 and 2010, 23% of adult men in Kenya were tested for HIV, compared to only 8% in 2003. Approximately 61% of eligible children younger than 15 years old are receiving antiretroviral therapy, while 67% of women are benefitting from antiretroviral therapy to reduce HIV transmission during pregnancy.

In the middle of the extremely poor slum of Mukuru, where the communities have little food, no toilets or running water, no jobs, and where in the rainy season sewage flows freely, the Medical Missionaries of Mary provide an oasis of hope and health. 

Their bright buildings and the hospitality of staff makes this very special place for Mukuru people.

February 28, 2013

Kenya elections

By Lawrence W. Mwagwabi, Kenya Governance and Human Rights Programme Officer, 28 February 2013

On March 4th, Kenyans will go to the polls for the first time since over 1,300 people were killed in violence that followed the 2007 Presidential election.

The brutal violence that followed the 2007 election rocked Kenya to its foundations. Over 600,000 people were displaced as ethnic clashes erupted throughout the country. Historically the most stable country in east Africa, the violence was a brutal reminder that ethnic tensions persist over land, high inequality, investment and jobs.

Five years on, the country nervously wonders: will the 2013 elections put the memories of violence to rest, or simply repeat them?

To date, there have been no convictions of significant figures responsible for the violence. The coalition government established to restore peace promised to establish a Special Tribunal to try high level perpetrators, but this has not been realized. In The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is preparing to hear cases against six individuals, including two of the current Presidential candidates.

The looming presence of the ICC trials has undoubtedly cast a shadow over the upcoming polls. Questions over how the international community would react if Kenya elects leaders who are being tried at the ICC have featured prominently in the campaign. The tone seems to vary from a defiant one, emphasizing that Kenya should not be influenced by donor money, to a more nuanced view of what would happen if the international community reacted negatively. Parallels have been drawn to Sudan’s Bashir and the sanctions placed on Sudan by the international community.

Attempts have been made, with varying success, to avoid the mistakes of the 2007 campaign, when inter-ethnic tensions were stoked in advance of voting. Several representatives of the government, including the Inspector General of the police, have asked candidates to refrain from campaigning on land issues, as this remains a hugely divisive issue. There are still enduring and unresolved community grievances over land ownership and distribution in different parts of Kenya. There is also continued challenge of internal displacement, with the government perceived as having failed to resettle all internally displaced people (IDPs).

Employment has been a central issue that all eight Presidential candidates have focused on. Campaigning has remained mostly positive. However, negative campaigning has been observed, particularly between the two main coalition blocks. The Jubilee Coalition has stated that the CORD alliance members are old and represent the past, with CORD on their part claiming that the leaders of the Jubilee Coalition are unfit to lead the country.

There has also been an issue of candidates getting involved with ‘voter buying’ in exchange for their support. Several parties have called on voters not to “sell” their vote in this way. Reports and coverage have focused mostly on the national elections, with some limited coverage on specific gubernatorial, MP and regional seats.

There has been much focus on the issue of ‘hate speech’, with several radio stations having been closed down after being accused of stoking ethnic tensions. These closures have been met with claims that the government is attempting to muzzle the media.

The government has instituted measures to tackle hate speech by introducing short messaging services (SMS) for people willing to report hate speech. In addition, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has distributed 1,200 voice recorders to police officers across the country to monitor hate speech during political rallies. The commission also stated at least 2,000 police officers of various ranks have been trained on how to monitor hate speech.

It is hoped that the new electronic voting system could defuse tensions, as results are expected within hours of voting closing. However, it is clear from the opinion polls conducted by various pollsters that this will be a ‘dead heat’ contest. It is likely to result in a runoff and it is anticipated that the election will be quite long, drawn out process as the issue of the legal process to solve contested results. Judges who will preside over election petitions after elections will have powers to declare a winner after a recount of ballot papers in court. This follows an amendment of judicial rules that will allow magistrates to preside over petitions to ensure faster and fair determination of disputes.

The shadow of the 2007 election looms large over this year’s process. Unresolved tensions, along with the impending ICC case, continue to shape the political landscape. Observations from Trócaire’s partners indicate a sense of unease, with widespread rumours and speculation within communities about ethnic tensions.

The International Crisis Group has accused politicians of deepening ethnic tensions and warns that most issues that triggered the 2008 post-election violence remain unresolved. According to the group, competition for land and resources and youth unemployment remains “hot political issues” and could be used by politicians to shore up ethnic support and possible violence.

On Monday Kenyans will go to the polls hoping that their votes can help improve political stability, and condemn the shocking scenes of 2007 to the past.


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