WHAT is the relationship between the eight MDGs and the ‘coming of age’ of Soccer on the African Continent?

Posted on 11 March 2010. Filed under: Lifestyle, MDGs, Sports |

For when the sounds of the ‘vuvuzela’ start blurring across four South African cities, MDG campaigners will also stand up to make a point in order to be heard.

A few days ago, the clock chimed a 100 days left before the global curtain is raised on the first-ever World Cup on African soil and for a continent where the poverty situation has almost adorned a lifestyle status, the soccer balls that will be kicked around in Johannesburg’s Soccer City and other stadiums during the World Cup in South Africa will not be far-off from this sad reality.

The host nation itself, is grappling with glaring poverty coming on the backdrop of the generations long apartheid system in that country.

But that notwithstanding, for the nations surrounding South Africa and those beyond, this country is an economic colossus and is a beacon of hope for many and it is therefore clear that the FIFA 2010 World Cup cannot be isolated from the issues that MDGs activists seek to entrench and achieve towards the attainment of the goals by 2015.

Last week, the Civil Society MDG- Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) Zambia in collaboration with the United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC) launched a ‘Kick Out Poverty’ Campaign towards the 2010 World Cup to be held in South Africa in June.
“The Civil Society MDG campaign has identified the FIFA 2010 world football cup to be hosted in South Africa as a major opportunity for leveraging and raising the profile of its activities targeted at supporting citizens’ efforts to hold their governments to account for the accelerated achievement of MDGs in Zambia,” GCAP Zambia national director Dennis Nyati explained. “The World Cup will be used as a platform to organise many memorable public mobilisation actions and re-position the MDG campaign strategically both within Zambia and globally.”

Nyati said proposed activities in the campaign would be useful in publicising and deepening policy tasks with the aim of strategically influencing the reports that would be prepared and presented to Zambian governments during the 2010 reviews leading to the high level summit in New York.

The implementation of the ‘Kick out Poverty’ comes on the basis that this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Millennium Declaration and the beginning of the last lap to 2015 when the MDGs are expected to be achieved.

“2010 for Zambia means the year for political parties to prepare manifestos that mainstream MDGs in their political pronouncements and aspirations. This event will also give political momentum to civic activism and people’s rights to participate in decisions and actions that affect them and consequently offer an additional opportunity to put basic rights at the centre of citizen participation at the centre,” Nyati says.

Nyati further observes that ‘Kick Out Poverty Campaign’ therefore provides space for alternative policies including a more developmental role for the state.

“This marks a continuation of the climate change negotiations, the outcomes of which are crucial to prospects of achieving the MDGs. 2010 is also a special year in Zambia because the country will be among other African countries that will be hosting soccer fans and teams participating to this year’s World Cup,” Nyati points out. “2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the hard-fought independence of several African countries. It marks the 20th anniversary of the launching of the Human Development Report and Human Development indices. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark speech by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in Accra and later in Johannesburg when he declared that the wind of change blowing through Africa was irreversible, a speech which recognised the irreversibility of the tide of political independence as well as the anti-apartheid struggle in Southern Africa.”

Nyati adds further, “2010 is also the year when the World Cup comes to a football-crazy Africa for the first time. These landmark occasions represent a challenge, a sense of urgency and an inspiration.”

It has been said that the rules of soccer are very simple, basically it is this: if it moves kick it. If it doesn’t move, kick it until it does, which sums up the game and really goes to the heart of the Millennium Campaign’s thematic thinking for the 2010 World Cup – ‘Kick out Poverty’.

To sum it all, the story of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, is one that culminates into an African contemporary folklore, with chapters on African poverty, sports revolution, political discourse and a time to make a ‘Piga Debe’ or in other words a big noise on the MDGs.

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Kenya Threatened by New Urban Disaster

Posted on 24 September 2009. Filed under: Governance, Lifestyle, Refugees/ IDPs |

Rapid urbanization is changing the face of poverty in Kenya

“If the government does not acknowledge this crisis, it will get even worse. Failure to address this now will leave Kenya paying for generations to come.”

Philippa Crosland Taylor Head of Oxfam GB, Kenya

Kenya is facing a new urban timebomb, with millions of Nairobi residents suffering a daily struggle for food and water as the divide between rich and poor widens, international aid agency Oxfam warned in a new report today. A combination of falling household income, rising prices, and poor governance is making life a misery for the poor majority in Kenya’s capital, the report on ‘Urban Poverty and Vulnerability in Kenya’ said.

Rapid urbanization is changing the face of poverty in Kenya. Nairobi’s population is set to nearly double to almost six million by 2025, and 60% of residents live in slums with no or limited access to even the most basic services such as clean water, sanitation, housing, education and healthcare. Whereas the starkest poverty has previously been found in remote rural areas, within the next ten years half of all poor Kenyans will be in towns and cities.

“An increasingly disenfranchised and poverty-stricken urban underclass is set to be the country’s defining crisis over the next decade, unless the Kenyan government and international donors act urgently to address it. Nairobi is fast becoming a divided society where the gap between rich and poor is now similar to the levels of inequality in Johannesburg at the end of apartheid. It is a city of a small minority of ‘haves’ and millions of ‘have nothings’,” said Philippa Crosland Taylor, head of Oxfam GB in Kenya.

Children in Nairobi slums are now some of the least healthy in the country, the report found. In some parts of the city, infant mortality rates are double those of poor rural areas, and half of young children suffer from acute respiratory infections and stunted growth. Acute child malnutrition is a growing concern.

The urban crisis has intensified over the past year, with people now earning less but having to pay more to survive. Household incomes have fallen due to the global economic crisis, with casual and long-term work harder to find as companies scale down. Meanwhile, the price of staple foods such as maize has more than doubled in the past year, with 90% of poor families forced to reduce the amount of food they eat as a result.

With drought devastating much of Kenya, the water crisis in Nairobi is one of the most severe in the country. Cholera cases have recently been reported and are expected to increase as almost 90% of slum dwellers have no piped clean water. Forced to buy from commercial street vendors, the poorest people often have to pay the highest prices – the report found that some poor communities pay eight times as much for water as wealthier communities in the same city.

Oxfam said the Kenyan government has repeatedly ignored the growing magnitude of the urban crisis, and urged it to invest more funds and resources in improving life for the most vulnerable residents of Nairobi’s slums. Projects that improve access to clean water and sanitation, and boost people’s income, are most urgently needed. International donors, who have tended to focus exclusively on rural poverty, also need to recognize the scale of the urban problem, the agency said.

“Just a few miles away from the country’s parliament and State House, poor families are living in breathtaking poverty, scouring the streets for scraps of food and queuing for hours for water they can barely afford. If the government does not acknowledge this crisis, it will get even worse. Failure to address this now will leave Kenya paying for generations to come,” said Crosland-Taylor.

The report warned that the rising urban inequality is creating a huge underclass with serious consequences for the country’s security and social fabric. The struggle to survive has forced some of the most vulnerable people into crime and high-risk occupations such as prostitution. Frustrated youth are increasingly turning to violence, and with Kenya still extremely politically volatile following the 2007/08 post-election violence, the risk of ethnically-linked clashes in Nairobi’s slums is being exacerbated by the growing resentment over inequality and desperate living conditions.

“Having enough food to eat and clean, safe water is one of the most basic human rights, yet in Nairobi it is increasingly only for the rich minority. Nairobi is one of the biggest and most prestigious cities in East Africa, yet it is crumbling before our eyes,” said Crosland-Taylor.

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Preparedness Gaps Evident As First Flu Cases Diagnosed

Posted on 4 July 2009. Filed under: Lifestyle, Public Health |

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
A nurse at work at a Kenyan hospital: Overall pandemic preparedness in East Africa and the Horn of Africa remains “relatively inactive”, according to a UN agency, as the first cases are reported in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda – file photo

2 July 2009 (IRIN) – Although some countries within East Africa and the Horn region have scaled up their influenza A (H1N1) contingency plans, overall pandemic preparedness remains “relatively inactive”, a UN agency has said, as the first cases were reported in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

According to an overview prepared by the pandemic influenza coordination (PIC) unit in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA PIC) in Nairobi, the countries that have updated their contingency plans include Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), and the Republic of Congo.

“These countries are considered well prepared in mobilizing both health and non-health sector measures in the event of a pandemic,” OCHA PIC said on 1 July.

OCHA PIC is a member of the regional rapid response team, which is planning technical support missions between July and September to accelerate preparedness and response in countries considered most vulnerable to so-called swine flu, including Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, CAR, Chad and Eritrea.

OCHA PIC said regional partners had expressed concern over the inadequate communication messages and channels used to reach the public with regard to pandemic preparedness and responses.

''Countries that have updated their contingency plans include Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and the Republic of Congo''

“It is recommended that a communication centre be hosted within respective ministry of health structures but supported by technical agencies in disseminating well-packaged messages on H1N1, H1N5 [avian flu] and other trans-boundary diseases,” OCHA PIC said.

Symptoms of A(H1N1) were confirmed in Kenya on 29 June in a British student visiting the country. “[Another] three suspected cases are under investigation,” OCHA PIC said.

In Ethiopia, the Ministry of Health has confirmed a third A(H1N1) case and is investigating four suspected cases.

“Out of 17 suspected individuals, 10 of them were found to be free and returned to their homes,” Ahmed Imano, head of the public relations service at the Ministry of Health, said. “Four of them are still under surveillance.”

In Uganda, the Ministry of Health announced on 2 July that one case of H1N1 had been diagnosed at Entebbe International Airport. The ministry said the 40-year-old had been isolated at a medical facility at the airport.

In Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and South Africa have also reported A(H1N1) cases.

Although no deaths have been recorded, more than 10 cases have been confirmed on the continent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ethiopia reported its case on 19 June. The first cases were detected in two teenagers returning from the United States. The third was reported on 29 June, of an air hostess with Ethiopian Airlines.

“All of them came from abroad,” Ahmed said. “It is not necessary at this time to reveal where they came from.”

He added: “We have a good mechanism of tracing [the epidemic.] All flight attendants have received training and are doing a good follow-up.

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Mombasa Watchmen and Sex Workers in Unity Pact

Posted on 16 April 2009. Filed under: Lifestyle, Public Health |

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Sex workers use alleys to avoid paying for hotel rooms

(PlusNews) – Over the course of the long nights Richard Omwenga spends guarding a building in Kenya’s port city of Mombasa, a series of young women accompanied by men duck into the alley next to the building. While Omwenga keeps watch, they have sex and then walk away, usually in different directions.

The young women are sex workers and Omwenga “rents” them the alley for a few minutes at a time as a cheaper alternative than paying for hotel rooms. At the end of the evening, the women either pay him a cut of their earnings or, more frequently, offer him sex.

“Initially, all we wanted was to offer the corridors [alleys] for some fee, but standing around watching people making love makes us boil,” he told IRIN/PlusNews. “As such, some of us came up with the give-and-take agreement with the girls.”

Several Mombasa watchmen, or askaris, said the women also used the alleys to hide from police. “One sex worker promised to do anything for me if I hid her in the corridors from policemen conducting a raid one day,” said Wallace Wanyama.

He said he had had sex with at least five sex workers who used the alley next to the building he guards, but did not use condoms and had never been tested for HIV.

Sex work is widespread in Mombasa which has high levels of poverty and illiteracy and large numbers of international tourists, truckers and sailors. HIV prevalence is about seven percent, slightly lower than the national prevalence of 7.4 percent.

Condom use is erratic among the sex workers. Anne Jambi, patrolling Mombasa’s Moi Avenue, told IRIN/PlusNews that she always used condoms when she had sex with askaris, but Sue Pekeshe said she could not remember whether she had used a condom during a recent encounter with a watchman because she was drunk at the time.

A 2007 study found that female sex workers in Mombasa who were binge drinkers were more likely to have unprotected sex, experience sexual violence, and contract sexually transmitted infections than those who did not drink.

Chewing khat – a widely used but addictive herbal stimulant – is common among watchmen trying to stay awake through the night, but has also been shown to increase risky behaviour.

Hard to reach

The odd hours that askaris work have made it difficult to reach them with HIV services. “Most of these guards are not easily accessible because of the demanding nature of their jobs,” said Dr Esther Gitambo, the provincial director of medical services. “Due to the poor package they earn from their guarding jobs, most of them opt to work on other casual jobs during the day.”

The risk of being mugged at night while trying to provide services to the watchmen was another complication said Rosemary Kenga, an administrator and counsellor at the AIDS Population and Health Integrated Assistance Programme (APHIA II), funded by USAID.

The APHIA II project provides “moonlight” voluntary counselling and HIV testing services to watchmen, sex workers and minibus-taxi operators during evening hours, but project coordinator Filberts Oluoch said the watchmen had been slow to make use of it.

“Watchmen are the most complicated to deal with,” he said. “Some say their company policies don’t allow them to speak to strangers, especially when they are on duty, a good example being those watching over huge business premises like banks.”

APHIA II is now working with companies that employ watchmen to introduce workplace programmes that encourage behaviour change, such as condom distribution and workshops on preventing HIV.

“We often hold workshops and brief in-house meetings to enlighten our staff on the importance of self discipline when they are at their workplace,” said Carlos Kioko, the communications manager of a large security company, Group4 Security. “We also supply them with free condoms.”

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Playing At Home is Safer

Posted on 16 April 2009. Filed under: Governance, Lifestyle, MDGs, Public Health |

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons
Two-thirds of HIV-positive Kenyans are either married or cohabiting

(PlusNews) – Marriage is not a safe haven from HIV; in fact, the pandemic is spreading rapidly among married people in Kenya. This is the core message of a new campaign to discourage extramarital sex.

“Wacha mpango wa kando; epuka ukimwi” – Swahili for “stop relationships on the side; avoid HIV” – is the name of the initiative developed by Population Services International (PSI), a social marketing organisation, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, the National AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Programme, and the National AIDS Control Council.

“Our campaign is necessitated by the increasing number of infections in marriages,” said Lucy Maikweki, deputy director of HIV and communication at PSI.

Print ads warn cheating married people that their “spare wheel” could have their own spare wheel, who could also have a spare wheel, who could be HIV-positive, putting the whole chain in jeopardy.

A series of TV spots feature a couple sitting in their living room watching a televised HIV message on fidelity. The woman is warned that if her husband is very secretive with his phone, it may be because he is cheating. The man is warned that if the woman is keen to change the channel when the HIV message comes on, she may be hiding something.

According to the 2007 Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey, in 10 percent of monogamous couples and 14 percent of polygamous unions at least one partner is HIV positive, while two-thirds of HIV-infected Kenyans are in stable relationships.

“There are signs of an increased number of discordant couples [where only one partner is HIV-positive], which is a clear indicator of rising levels of infidelity in marriage and other long-term sexual relationships,” Maikweki said.

A 2007 study by Kenya’s University of Nairobi found that 17 percent of men surveyed and eight percent of women reported having extramarital relationships.

''I trust the woman I go out with and so that advert is not meant for me''

PSI’s campaign targets men like Joshua Omondi*, an upwardly mobile sales representative who says he is happily married but gets bored with the monotony of a single sexual partner. For the past year, he has been having a relationship with a young university student.

“I cannot be with my wife every day … I just need a break from the family boredom, so we meet in a night club every weekend where we have a good time and later get to spend a night somewhere; after that I go home to my wife and children,” he told IRIN/PlusNews.

Omondi does not use condoms with either his wife or mistress. “Initially [my girlfriend] and I used a condom while having sex but we later stopped because I thought I could trust her enough,” he said. “Using a condom with my wife when I get back home is unthinkable, because that will definitely lead to mistrust.”

Maikweki said many people involved in extramarital affairs did not use condoms for similar reasons. “There is some false sense of trust over time,” she said.

The “wacha mpango wa kando” campaign also encourages couples to be tested for HIV, not just at the start of a relationship, but well into marriage and other long-term relationships.

Omondi has seen the campaign, but is ambivalent about its message. “The campaign is a good one, but, you see, I trust the woman I go out with and so that advert is not meant for me,” he said. “After all, it encourages sticking to my wife, which I am not ready to do anytime soon.”

Read more:
Where does married love fit into Uganda’s prevention plan?
Sharing more than just the matrimonial bed
Love in the time of HIV/AIDS

PSI is conducting a survey to assess the impact of the campaign, but it appears to be having a positive effect on Agatha, a married woman who admits to having lovers besides her husband.

“The new TV campaign strikes you when you watch it,” she said. “You have the feeling you should use a condom with an extramarital partner.”

*Not his real name

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When Words Hurt – Kenyan University Students Get Lessons in Sensitivity

Posted on 9 April 2009. Filed under: Lifestyle, Public Health |

Photo: Anthony Kaminju/IRIN
Insensitive language creates stigma

MASENO – Young people have always been adept at creating witty ways to describe everyday life, but the language they use can be hurtful to people living with HIV; western Kenya’s Maseno University is now helping its students to stop using insensitive, stigmatizing language.

“When you hear people make jokes about HIV, without caring about anybody in the group who might be living with it, it makes you feel out of place and withdraw yourself to isolation. Somebody is killing you without knowing it,” said William Kisia*, 22, an HIV-positive student.

“These young people might be using these words – not necessarily to create stigma amongst their colleagues, but to ease communication amongst themselves – but then stigma is created in the process, without the originators of these kinds of words knowing it,” said Dr Maurine Olel, coordinator of the AIDS Control Unit at Maseno University.

“We are working with student clubs, student leaders and other partners to ensure that students are … sensitive to their colleagues who might be living with HIV,” he added. “When you create stigma, other efforts geared towards fighting HIV become hard to implement.”

Some of the slang terms in the Kiswahili language, commonly used by university students to refer to HIV, include: “mdudu”, a word for a small creepy-crawly; “huyu jamaa anatuacha”, which says, “this guy is leaving us”; “ogopa”, meaning fear, a word used by young men to describe HIV-positive women; “huyo jamaa amekanyaga live wire”, or “that guy stepped on a live wire”, a euphemism for someone who had unprotected sex and contracted HIV.

“The person you are telling about another person living with HIV, using that kind of language, might also be positive, and you could be hurting them without knowing it. We need to desist from using such demeaning language to describe others,” said Evelyn Wanderi, who participated in a recent workshop on stigmatizing language.

“Imagine being positive, and you hear somebody make a joke that somebody with HIV is a walking corpse; it kills you emotionally and physically – it kills your spirit,” she said. “Those who know their status and are willing to speak out will never do so, and those who do not know their status will keep away from finding out their status – this is the surest way to lose the battle against HIV.”

Read more
Mind your language – a short guide to HIV/AIDS slang
Mind your language – a guide to HIV/AIDS slang
Scrutinize! An in-your-face HIV prevention campaign

Rosemary Wambui, a psychologist and counsellor at the university’s AIDS Control Unit, noted that “Students are generally aware of HIV, but it is important to fight stigma … and what it is that causes it, including the language, because it leads to silence and denial, which are big hindrances to the fight against HIV.”

The Ministry of Health and the Commission for Higher Education have partnered with I Choose Life Africa, an NGO working in HIV management and control among university students, in a programme that has trained around 4,000 HIV peer educators. Several universities, including Maseno, now also have compulsory HIV courses that all students must take as a prerequisite to graduation.

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Desperate Times in Isiolo as Women Sell Sex to Buy Food

Posted on 4 March 2009. Filed under: Lifestyle, Public Health |

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
The price of maize-flour more than doubled in 2008

ISIOLO, 3 March 2009 (PlusNews) – By day, Angela* does odd jobs at a primary school in Isiolo, a town in Kenya’s Eastern Province, but by night she and her two daughters rent a house in town where they sell sex to local men and truckers passing through. According to health workers, more and more women are turning to sex work to survive the ongoing food crisis and rocketing food prices.

“Life is no longer the same; reputation is not an important issue anymore,” Angela told IRIN/PlusNews. “Everybody is concerned with food, with survival.”

Food and water shortages have led to migration from rural areas to Isiolo, and many of the town’s new female residents were also selling sex to buy food. As a result, she and her daughters often did not insist on safe sex. “Most of our clients don’t like using condoms; you have to accept it or die of hunger,” she said.

The town is on the north-south highway through Kenya, and also hosts four military camps, creating an abundant demand for sex work. According to Mohamed Guyo, the Isiolo district HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections officer, HIV prevalence in Isiolo district rose from 2.8 percent in 2007 to 4.7 percent in 2008.

“Isiolo town has been invaded by a high number of women and young girls … we are concerned,” he said. “Most of these women are either single mothers or young girls who have dropped out school – they are victims of poverty, conflicts, and HIV.”

An estimated 10 million Kenyans are facing a food crisis as a result of crop failure due to poor rains and drought, high food prices, and the effects of election-related violence in early 2008 that disrupted farming activities. The price of a 2kg packet of maize flour or ‘unga’, a staple food, more than doubled in 2008.

Besides crop failure, the northern and eastern areas of the country, largely populated by pastoralists, have seen their herds of goats and sheep decimated by ‘goat plague’, a viral disease related to rinderpest in cattle. Clashes over water and pasture have also increased in these areas as a result of food shortages, leading to even more migration.

Mary*, who was a sex worker in Isiolo town for several years, quit three years ago when she was diagnosed with HIV. She took up domestic employment but since food prices have shot up, she has had to return to transactional sex.

''Life is no longer the same; reputation is not an important issue anymore. Everybody is concerned with food, with survival''

“I have struggled to raise the children but it was impossible with only one job,” she told IRIN/PlusNews. She lives in fear that her employers will discover she is a sex worker and sack her, but the fear that her family will starve is greater.

“I am happy that the little money I get at night is helping my children; I want them to complete their studies so that they can help themselves,” she said. “I still take my drugs but my clients do not know my status.”

Health workers in the eastern district of Makueni said they had heard reports of men sending their wives out to sell sex so as to have money to buy food. Rebecca Lolosoli, who runs a local NGO in the northern district of Samburu, said rising levels of poverty were forcing many rural families into Samburu town.

“Most of them are from remote parts; they are ignorant and desperate, and are not aware about HIV and how to protect themselves,” Lolosoli said. “Many young girls and women are migrating to urban centres because of insecurity and poverty; these two factors are contributing to new cases of HIV in our districts – it must be addressed.”

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KENYA: Maureen Kiwinda, “It was not my desire to sleep with people to get a job”

Posted on 4 March 2009. Filed under: Lifestyle, Public Health |

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
“It was not my desire to lead a life of sleeping with people to get a job”

NAIROBI, (PlusNews) – Maureen Kiwinda*, 22, came to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in 2003 to stay with her brother, a casual employee in the industrial area. She has also taken up casual employment, but told IRIN/PlusNews that handing out sexual favours was a regular requirement for getting work.

“I could not proceed with my education due to lack of school fees, so I came here and stayed with my brother for two years, but I left because he was not happy that I became pregnant.

“I later went to stay with a friend and started doing laundry work for people … but whatever I was getting from my work was too little to take care of my child. Also, I could not work most of the time because he was still too small and needed my constant attention.

“A friend of mine used to work at the EPZ [export processing zone – an industrial area established by the government in 1990 to boost Kenya’s export capacity]. I went there with her several times but I could not get a job.

“When I was almost giving up, she told me the truth and advised me to talk to one of the supervisors. She told me it would be difficult for me to get a job without giving something small, which I thought was money, but I later learnt the small thing was my body.

“At first I found it hard to comprehend, but I weighed living without knowing what tomorrow brings and having sex to get a job and I decided to give it a try.

“I have been doing it and I have been getting jobs frequently [but] I have paid the price, because now I am HIV-positive.

“The problem here is that you cannot stick to one partner. Even if you decide to get a job through sex, these supervisors are changed almost on a monthly basis, so you know you have to please each of them to survive.

“At times I feel guilty about what I am doing, knowing that I am HIV-positive, but I cannot tell my colleagues or even those who solicit for sex from me. I need food and I need money – what do I do?

“God knows it was not my desire to lead a life of sleeping with people to get a job. At times I feel sorry for myself and my friends, but that is the society we live in.”

*Not her real name

See also: KENYA: Sex for jobs in export processing zones

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KENYA: Changing Lifestyles Put Indigenous Communities at Risk

Posted on 27 February 2009. Filed under: Governance, Lifestyle, MDGs, Public Health |

The Ogiek have battled eviction from their home in Mau Forest for decades

MAU FOREST, 23 February 2009 (PlusNews) – One of East Africa’s last remaining hunter-gatherer communities, the Ogiek people, has largely remained separate from the rest of society, but NGOs warn that their ignorance and isolation from HIV/AIDS prevention efforts could heighten their vulnerability to the virus.

According to the Centre for Minority Rights and Development (CEMIRIDE), an NGO promoting the rights of indigenous peoples in Kenya, total ignorance of HIV among the Ogiek is not uncommon.

“There are no HIV campaigns at all directed at the Ogiek … the government do not even have statistics about the prevalence amongst them,” said Pattita Tiongoi, a programme officer with CEMIRIDE.

“The disease is penetrating through the Ogiek because of displacement, which has seen them mingle with their infected cosmopolitan neighbours like the Maasai and the Kalenjin.”

Napuoyo Moibei*, who thinks she is about 35 years old, was evicted from the Mau forest in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province several years ago and took up employment on a nearby wheat farm to make ends meet.

“The money was little, and with children and no husband, my option was to have sex with men from other communities who lived in the nearby trading centres,” she told IRIN/PlusNews.

Moibei’s husband passed away three years ago, and she recently discovered that she too was HIV-positive. “I had never heard about the disease called AIDS until I got sick and was almost dying,” she said. “The wife of my employer sympathised with me and took me to Nakuru for treatment.”

“I still do not know much, except that I have to go for drugs [life-prolonging antiretroviral medication] in Nakuru to live – that is what the nurse told me.”

''I had never heard about the disease called AIDS until I got sick and was almost dying''

With no knowledge about the virus, Moibei was unable to protect herself. “I do not know even how a condom looks like,” she said.

Experts say there is an urgent need to start HIV awareness campaigns targeting the Ogiek population of around 20,000, especially as more of them leave the forest for urban settlements and rural plantations, where they interact with higher-prevalence communities.

A study by the Minority Rights Group International and CEMIRIDE found that sex work was increasing as single-parent girls and women sought to fend for themselves, leading to the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

“The initial lifestyle of being confined to the forest kind of shielded the Ogiek from HIV spread, but that lifestyle has been disrupted due to displacement,” CEMIRIDE’s Tiongoi said. “This is a small group of people that can easily be wiped out by [HIV] in just a few generations.”

According to Daniel Kobei, executive director of the Ogiek People’s Development Programme, HIV and other health issues have been sidelined as the government and NGOs focused on other Ogiek issues such as landlessness and poverty.

Kobei noted that very few Ogiek were literate, which meant they could not benefit from traditional HIV campaigns and would need specially created messages; health services would also have to be brought nearer the forest to reach the people still living there.

“Those who seek medical help have to come all the way to Nakuru, which is almost 40 kilometres away from where they are; it is a tiring walk for one who is living with the virus,” he said.

Most Ogiek still live in the Rift Valley, which has an HIV prevalence of seven percent, slightly lower than the national average of 7.4 percent.

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Saving the Mau Complex

Posted on 17 February 2009. Filed under: Environment, Lifestyle |

The Mau Forest Complex forms the largest closed canopy forest ecosystem of Kenya. It is as large the forest of Aberdares and Mt Kenya combined. Being the most important water catchment in the Rift Valley and Western Kenya, it is an asset of national importance.

The Mau complex helps secure the provision of water supply to urban areas and supports the livelihood of millions of people living in rural areas. It is the home of a minority group of the indigenous forest dwellers, the Ogiek. Many communities are also living in the immediate surrounding of the forest, depending extensively on the forest goods and services.

Despite its critical importance and future economic development, the Mau Forest Complex has been impacted by extensive irregular and ill-planned settlement, as well as illegal forest resource extraction.

A degraded region in the Mau

A degraded region in the Mau

The Mau complex helps secure the provision of water supply to urban areas and supports the livelihood of millions of people living in rural areas. It is the home of a minority group of the indigenous forest dwellers, the Ogiek. Many communities are also living in the immediate surrounding of the forest, depending extensively on the forest goods and services.

Despite its critical importance and future economic development, the Mau Forest Complex has been impacted by extensive irregular and ill-planned settlement, as well as illegal forest resource extraction.

Degazetment of the forest reserves (excision) and continuous widespread encroachment have lead to the destruction of some 104,000 hectares representing over 24% of the Mau Complex area over the last 15 years. In 2001, 61,023 hectares of forest in the Mau Complex were excised. In addition, an estimated 43,700 hectares have been encroached in the remaining protected forests of the Mau Complex. Such extensive and ongoing destruction of key natural assets of the country is a matter of national emergency. It presents significant environmental and economic threats.

Gazettement of the task force

The Ministry of Forest and Wildlife organized a historical stakeholder’s consultative workshop on the Mau forest held on 15th July 2008 and was presided over by the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon Raila A. Odinga. The stakeholders meeting came up with recommendations to form a task force. The task force was gazetted on 31st July 2008 and was mandated to formulate appropriate recommendations to the government of Kenya for;

  • An effective management structure to stop any further degradation of the Mau complex.
  • Provide for the relocation of the people currently residing in forest.
  • Restoration of all degraded blocks of forest and critical water catchment areas within the Mau Forest Complex.
  • Mobilizing local and international resources to Implement the above mentioned objectives and to secure the sustainability of the entire ecosystem of the Mau Forest Complex.

Enforcement and Outreach

– Enforcement force deployed on the ground to contain further forest destruction.
– Joint administrative and enforcement structure established to coordinate the enforcement force and conduct regular monitoring of situation in all the forest blocks.
– Communication materials developed to raise awareness and educate the communities on the need to conserve the forest and on the objectives and work of the task force.

– Barazas held jointly with provincial administration, at community level in all locations where enforcement force are deployed to inform on the need to conserve the Mau Forest complex and on the roles of the task force and the enforcement force in that context(at least every two months in each location)

– Special operations carried out to correct forest produce (timber and charcoal scattered in the forest) Updated inventory and regular reports on impounded forest produce (every two weeks)


  • Map all legal boundaries of protected forests and 2001 excision
  • Identify the boundaries of settlement
  • Schemes, adjudication sections and extent of encroachment.
  • Consolidate boundary data of protected forest and 2001 excision.
  • Mark survey and demarcate on the ground, through the use of outlines, the boundaries of the remaining protected forests
  • Identify boundaries which require to be further secured and to identify means to secure them.
  • Meet on regular basis to make recommendations to the task force.

Land Ownership and Resettlement

  • Meet on regular basis to make recommendations to the task force.
  • Audit land ownership and land rights in the protected forests and the 2001 excision.
  • To identify critical catchment areas in the 2001 forest excision.
  • To identify modalities to resettle or relocate people from protected forests
  • To identify modalities to repossess critical catchment areas in the 2001 forest excision
  • Meet on a regular basis to make recommendations to the task force
  • Audit land ownership and land rights in the protected forests and the 2001 excision.
  • To identify critical catchment areas in the 2001 forest excision.
  • To identify modalities to resettle or relocate people from protected forests
  • To identify modalities to repossess critical catchment areas in the 2001 forest excision
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Anxiety Grips Kenya Over New HIV Transmission Law

Posted on 14 December 2008. Filed under: Lifestyle, Public Health |

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Shared responsibility for prevention

NAIROBI, 12 December 2008 (PlusNews) – In June 2006, a young woman in western Kenya died of HIV-related complications and left a list of about 100 people that she said she had infected with HIV. A new law, approved by the Kenyan president but yet to be implemented, is hoping to prevent wilful transmission.

The HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act 2006 has drawn mixed and very sharp reactions. Inviolata Mbwavi, an AIDS activist who went public about her status in 1994, warned that the legislation in its current form appeared to label HIV-infected people as dangerous human beings with whom people should not associate.

“When you criminalise HIV then we are going back to square [one] of trying to stigmatise the virus even more, yet we have not effectively dealt with the stigma associated with HIV. Why do we want to further burden those who are already burdened by coming up with HIV-specific legislation?”

The Kenyan government is divided on the matter. The National AIDS Control Council, a government body set up to coordinate HIV control activities, is strongly opposed to the section that puts the responsibility for not transmitting the virus on those already living with it.

“Why would one bother to go for a test when they already know it could be used against them in a court of law?” said Tom K’Opere, an advocate of the High Court, at a conference organised by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights to discuss the merits and demerits of the legislation.

“It is ridiculous, because we all know that knowing one’s status is one of the most effective ways of containing the scourge, yet we are now trying to discourage this by introducing such a law.”

Read more
Will criminalising HIV transmission work?
HIV law a “double edged sword
HIV laws put women in the line of fire
Draft HIV bill’s good intentions could backfire

According to the National AIDS Control Council, most Kenyans do not know their status.

Supporters of the law, like Otiende Amollo, a lawyer and member of the task force that collected views from the public before the legislation was drafted, maintain it would go along way in protecting vulnerable groups like women and children, who are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault.

Anne Gathumbi, an officer of the Open Society Initiative for East Africa, which supports and promotes public participation in democratic governance and the rule of law, said: “We know that the majority of those who know their status are women. What we are doing by passing such a law is therefore to condemn people we are claiming to protect to jail.”

The new legislation has also brought into question the responsibility of HIV-negative people. “What we are proposing in the law only touches those already [HIV]-positive. We should also look at the responsibility of those who do not have the virus,” said Anne Marie, a civil society activist.

“Are we not forgetting that we should vouch for shared responsibility? Let us not create a law because we are desperate to show the world that we are doing something.”

Another clause causing concern is the one that gives medical practitioners the authority to disclose the status of patients to their next of kin, violating their right to confidentiality. It remains to be seen whether Kenya will go ahead and implement these contentious clauses.

Kennedy Anyona*, who has lived with the virus for the past four years, says the responsibility of revealing one’s status to anybody is a right that should not be delegated to any other party.

“I have a right to confidentiality and that cannot be trampled upon. The responsibility of revealing my status, which is the best thing to do however, rests with me,” he said.

“Taking that away means I am being denied my human right to privacy and confidentiality, which are even enshrined in international laws to which Kenya is a signatory.”

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Tell us more – African Children Call for Sex Education

Posted on 14 December 2008. Filed under: Education, Lifestyle, Public Health |

Photo: Fid Thompson/IRIN
African youth representatives attend the International AIDS and STIs Conference in Africa (ICASA) in Dakar, Senegal

DAKAR, 11 December 2008 (IRIN) – Children in sub-Saharan Africa want to know more about sex and how to protect themselves from HIV, but taboos surrounding children’s sexuality can mean life-saving information is kept from them, according to an international NGO.

Children in the region say they need access to sex education that is comprehensive, practical, and free from moral judgment, according to the report Tell Me More! by Save the Children Sweden (SC-S). The NGO researched children’s views on sexuality, sex education, HIV prevention approaches and sexual identity in nine sub-Saharan African countries.

“Adults think we’re too young to know anything about sexuality. They don’t explain things clearly. They don’t want to give the information to children,” Carine Hlomador, a 15-year-old AIDS activist from Togo, told IRIN during the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) in the Senegalese capital Dakar.

With nearly 1,800 new infections every day among children under 15 worldwide, some through sexual activity, sex education for children is vital to prevent the spread of HIV, Save the Children says in its report, released on 1 December.

Right to information

The 2001 UN Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS states that young people aged 15-24 should have access to information and services to protect themselves from HIV infection, and aimed to reach 90 percent of youths by 2005.

But three years past that target only 40 per cent of young men and 36 percent of young women worldwide are armed with accurate knowledge on HIV prevention, according to a 2008 UN report.

Under-15s are not targeted at all, despite more than 10 percent of interviewees between 15 and 19 claiming to have had sex under the age of 15, according to Amé David, SC-S programme manager in Dakar.

“Children under 15 have been largely ignored in HIV/AIDS prevention education programmes, because talking about children’s sexuality is taboo,” David said.

''…Teachers don’t seem to want to open the debate to allow children to express themselves…''

Taboos around children’s sexuality also mean that little is known about children aged 7 to 14, according to Save the Children. “There is clearly a need – if not a moral obligation – for studies [on these age groups],” the report concludes, adding that children are being exposed to HIV from a young age, becoming sexually active early and developing their own strategies to protect themselves.

Studies show that children with access to accurate information tend to delay having sex for the first time. “It is the children who don’t have the information who try to discover what it is all about,” SC-S’s David said.

David is convinced that suppressing children’s sexuality can only make things worse: “If we say nothing is happening at adolescence, we are deluding ourselves. If we look the other way and put our head in the sand, children will look for information in the media which is not always a good source.”

Bayala Rodrigue, 16, of Côte d’Ivoire, told IRIN adults would be wrong to avoid the subject. “In Africa, adults say there is an age after which you can teach sexuality to children. But there is no age limit. You think you know your child, but in reality you don’t. On the street you don’t know what he or she is learning.”

Why the taboo

The silence surrounding children’s sexuality in some sub-Saharan countries comes partly from adults’ unease with the subject, says Anta Fall Diagne, programme officer for reproductive health at the Population Council, an international NGO working on reproductive health in Senegal.

“It is adults, policymakers and ministers who are afraid of [talking about it]. The youth themselves are open about their problems.”

Photo: Fid Thompson/IRIN
Young girls get a chance to discuss sex at an after-school health club in the Senegalese capital, Dakar

Religion also plays a significant role, she said. People are reluctant to talk to children about sexuality in societies where sex outside of marriage is frowned upon.

But Fall said: “One thing is sure – many of them [youths] have a sex life. Another thing is sure – they have problems with their sex lives. Thirdly, they do not have the right information to deal with these problems.”

Better sex education in schools

Children surveyed by SC-S who do receive sex education in schools said that it is often negative, contradictory and too focused on biology. Instead children want knowledge that is relevant to their situation and the skills to negotiate prevention methods in a relationship.

“You’ve told me to protect myself,” Rodrigue of Côte d’Ivoire said. “OK, I know that you put the condom on the penis. But there are other things to negotiate. We need more realistic information.”

The report also found that teachers are often unprepared to openly discuss issues of sexuality with children and frequently take a moralistic and negative stance.

“Teachers don’t seem to want to open the debate to allow children to express themselves, talk about what’s happening to them and find solutions for their problems,” Souadou Ndoye, a 17 year-old Senegalese student, told IRIN.

Read one girl’s plea for early sex education

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Post-Violence Sex Work Boom in Kenya

Posted on 11 July 2008. Filed under: Insecurity, Lifestyle, Refugees/ IDPs |

Photo: Eva-Lotta Jansson/IRIN
Desperation limits your options

MOMBASA, 9 July 2008 (PlusNews) – Like thousands of other Kenyans, Susan Wairimu, 17, was displaced from her home in the Rift Valley Province’s Molo district during the violence that followed a disputed presidential election in December 2007 and sought shelter in the nearby town of Nakuru.

A cousin living in the coastal town of Mombasa offered to accommodate her until the violence ended, offering an escape from the single tent she shared with her parents at the displaced persons camp in Nakuru.

“I had no idea of the kind of work my cousin used to do in the beginning; I came to know some few days after my arrival, when she told me she operates as a call girl from the beaches.”

Kenya’s coast is one of its most popular tourist destinations: an estimated two million tourists visited Kenya in 2007, many of them heading for the Indian Ocean towns of Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu, where commercial sex work is one of the main ways many women earn money.

Before long Wairimu was introduced to the business of selling sex. “We now have the skills and have learnt that the amount of money a man parts with will determine the kind of pleasure we will offer him. For example, making love without a condom will cost a client more money than using one,” she said.

“The killing in my village taught me a lesson and prepared me for a tough life, and now I do not fear death any more,” she added. “I do not fear HIV and I believe that you will die when your day arrives, and the disease will not determine, but only God.”

Wairimu accepts as little as 300 Kenya shillings (US$4.50) for an entire night, sometimes with two men.

Locals at the coast say sex workers in the region traditionally used to target wealthy foreign tourists, usually from Europe. Today, a fall in tourist numbers after the post-election violence and an increased number of sex workers means every man, old or young, black or white, is seen as a potential customer.

Wairimu is one of an estimated two hundred girls between 15 and 18 years of age who are now engaged in full-time sex work along Kenya’s coast, according to Solidarity with Women in Distress (SOLWODI), a local non-governmental organisation that sensitises sex workers to the dangers of HIV/AIDS.

Increase in child sex trade

Child sex work is not uncommon along the coast; a 2006 study by the government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that up to 30 percent of teenagers in some coastal areas were involved in casual sex for cash.

Agnetta Mirikau, a child protection specialist with UNICEF Kenya, told IRIN/PlusNews that the organisation had received reports of an increase in the child sex trade since the election.

SOLWODI’s field coordinator in Mombasa, Grace Odembo, told IRIN/PlusNews that most of the girls who resorted to sex work were high school drop-outs, which would make it difficult for them to find formal employment.

“The girls have opted to sell their bodies in order to get money for survival,” Odembo said. “We try as much as we can … to convince them out of [sex work].”

The 2006 study also found that 35.5 percent of all sex acts involving children and tourists took place without condoms, putting the girls at risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The HIV prevalence in Kenya’s Coast Province is 5.9 percent, higher than the national average of 5.1 percent.

SOLWODI runs counselling, return-to-school programmes and vocational skills training for girls who wish to get out of the trade. Since its formation in 1997, the organisation has managed to get 5,000 girls and women to leave the sex industry.

''The girls have opted to sell their bodies in order to get money for survival … We try as much as we can to convince them out of [sex work].''

Hoteliers often turn a blind eye to residents bringing underage girls into their rooms, but some have a more strict policy regarding commercial sex on their premises.

“We never accommodate any visitors who try to check into our hotels with young-looking girls until we get some required details about the girl,” Mohammed Hersi, general manager of the Mombasa’s Sarova White Sands Beach Hotel, told IRIN/PlusNews. “[We usually] establish who the girls are, what they are up to and, most important, their ages.”

SOLWODI also trains hotels to implement an existing code of conduct to prevent sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism sector, but by late 2007, only 20 hotels had signed the code of conduct.

The deputy mayor of Mombasa, John Mcharo, said keeping the girls off the streets was difficult. “Yes, we can arrest the girls but only charge them with loitering, just like we’ve done before, but this can’t stop the girls from finding their way back to the streets and beaches as soon as they come out of our custody.”

Girls at the beach generally wear bathing suits, so it is difficult to distinguish between sex workers trawling the beach for customers and girls who are simply enjoying a day at the beach.

Local law enforcement officers and religious leaders have called on the government to do more to stop underage girls selling sex in the area. “The government has to come up with a special programme that can get the girls not only off the beaches but off the streets,” said Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa, organising secretary of the council of Imams and preachers of Kenya.

He added that his organisation frequently held workshops to urge underage girls to quit the trade, and provided them with spiritual guidance.

The government has a children’s department in every district, which is responsible for the protection of children from exploitation and abuse. According to Patrick Wafula, of the Mombasa police department, much of the work of the department’s special tourism unit consists of arresting the perpetrators of child sex abuse and exploitation.

“We usually carry out raids in areas we suspect to be meeting points for the girls and their potential clients,” he said.

The government also recently expanded the child protection units at police stations, adding children’s officers and improving judicial services, so that they are now better prepared to handle children’s issues.

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Cholera Outbreak Confirmed in Kenya’s Western Region

Posted on 25 June 2008. Filed under: Lifestyle, MDGs, Public Health |

Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Contaminated water sources are a principal cause of cholera outbreaks

NAIROBI, 25 June 2008 (IRIN) – An outbreak of cholera has been confirmed in the Kisumu municipality in the western region, a senior health official has said.

“At least 13 out of 38 cases sampled for cholera have tested positive,” Shahnaaz Sharif, the senior deputy director of medical services in Kenya’s health ministry, said.

Sharif said 34 people had also been admitted to the Kisumu district hospital, with a total of 134 cases reported since the outbreak began on 6 June.

So far, he said, no deaths had been registered.

The most affected areas included the slums of Manyatta, Nyalenda and Obunga in the municipality, which lies in the district of Kisumu East.

“The new outbreak is attributable to the onset of recent rains in the region that have resulted in the contamination of water wells – the main sources of water for the residents,” he said.

This, he said, may have aggravated the already poor sanitation in the slum areas.

Medical supplies have been sent to the affected regions and cholera treatment centres established in the localities of Migosi, Simba Upepo and near the airport dispensary.

Contaminated wells located in close proximity to latrines have been fenced off and the remaining functional wells chlorinated. Other measures included banning the hawking of food in the area and the inspection of food handlers.

Sharif said it was difficult to create public awareness of better hygiene and sanitation practices against a backdrop of low latrine coverage.

The lack of sufficient safe and clean water for domestic consumption within the municipality was also a challenge, he said.

At least 376 cases and 12 deaths have been reported in the Kisumu East district since January when an outbreak of the disease was reported in the rural areas.

The outbreak, which also affected the districts of Bondo, Homa Bay, Kisii South, Kisumu West, Migori, Nyando, Rongo, Siayathe and Suba in the western region, led to the deaths of 46 people with 832 cases being reported, according to a UN World Health Organization (WHO) report on 19 April.

An initial rapid assessment and outbreak investigation in response to the outbreak in April identified poor personal and food hygiene as one of the risk factors contributing to the transmission. The assessment was carried out by a team from the ministry and the WHO.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Symptoms include watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.

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Linking Sport and the Environment to the Peace and Poverty Agenda in Kenya

Posted on 19 June 2008. Filed under: Environment, Governance, Lifestyle, MDGs, Media, Poverty, Sports |


UNEP and Underprivileged Children and Youth Kick Off New Reconciliation Initiative

Nairobi, 18 June 2008–More than 300 children and teenagers from across Nairobi will gather on 21 June for the launch of a three-month event to promote peace and reconciliation.

The ‘Play for the Planet: Play for Peace’ initiative, organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has received about $40,000 of support in cash and in kind from UNEP, the International Olympic Committee and sports-goods maker PUMA, as well as the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) and ABC Bank. It will run until 21 September to coincide with World Peace Day.

The event aims to use the power of sport to promote peace and reconciliation among Kenyans, and to provide a positive environment for interaction for young people affected by the recent post-election conflict in Kenya.

The 21 June launch at the Kenya Cultural Centre will include theatre performances, acrobatic shows, peace and environmental messages and a live concert, as well as an exhibition of paintings by internally displaced children.

A series of events for children and youth aged 6 to 24 will then take place in schools and communities across the parts of Nairobi most affected by the recent unrest: the informal settlements of Mathare, Huruma, Mathare North, Kibera, Dandora and Korogocho.

Activities in schools and at community level will include talks, drama workshops, tree planting and a clean-up of the Nairobi river, as well as weekend sports tournaments. Community-based organizations will help implement the activities, and youth peer counsellors trained by UN-HABITAT will also provide counselling to the affected and traumatized children.

Kenyan sports personalities such as world-famous marathon runners Paul Tergat and Catherine Ndereba will attend some of the events.

Based on the success of the event, UNEP may consider extending the initiative to other parts of the country which were affected by the unrest.

Notes to editors

This is the first edition of UNEP’s sports and peace initiative. The aim is to use sport as an avenue to promote and foster peace, in line with UNEP’s long term strategy on Sport and the Environment endorsed by UNEP Governing Council in 2003.

Homeboyz radio will provide live coverage for the opening event on 21 June.

For more information, please contact:

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, Office of the Executive Director, on Tel: +254 20 762 3084; Mobile: 254 733 632 755 or when traveling +41 795 965 737; E-mail:

Or Anne-France White, Associate Information Officer, on Tel: +254 20 762 3088, Mobile: + 254 728600494; E-mail:

Or Theodore Oben, Chief of UNEP’s Outreach Unit, on Tel: +254 724 255 247; E-mail:

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