Dr. Hezron Mc’Obewa is Direct Relief’s Regional Medical Advisor and founder of the Kenya-based OGRA Foundation. He is currently in Kisumu treating victims of the country’s outbreak of violence following recent elections. He is also overseeing the health projects of the Kisumu area’s humanitarian aid committee, coordinating activities between the Kenyan Ministry of Health, Kenyan Red Cross, and non-governmental organizations.
Direct Relief has provided a $50,000 infusion of cash, which has been matched by an anonymous donor in the UK, to provide critically needed medicines and supplies at the start of the violence. A Direct Relief-supplied emergency module of essential medicines and supplies – sufficient to provide basic care for 10,000 people for a 30-day period – arrived yesterday in Kisumu. In addition, a scheduled shipment of antiretroviral drugs for displaced persons who need to maintain their treatment regimens has been expedited.
The following is an update from Dr. Hezron Mc’Obewa:
“I have collected the emergency health kit, and we are starting distribution of it this morning (Kenya time) to various points, mostly government health centers near camps of displaced people. We will also use some of the surgical stuff in our basic theatre to help with the injured.
Things are stable now with other agencies now also starting to operate, and regions have been divided as well to enable us to work more efficiently. OGRA’s – and our partners’ – current focus over the last two days has been operating on the young people shot mostly in the limbs and shoulders and also a few injured through machetes. So far we have done 14 such serious cases with our surgical team and 11 have been discharged. Three will stay for at least three weeks as inpatients until stabilized.
We have a team going door-to-door in the Kisumu slums (Nyalenda, Obunga, Manyatta, Kasagam) looking for injured people who are unable to come out. This was highlighted at one of our inter-agency meetings on Saturday and it is through this that we are encountering some people with, literally, rotting limbs – how some haven’t died, only God knows.
Food and non-food items are now sorted by a subcommittee headed by a World Food Programme representative now in Kisumu and covering the western region, and displaced people are getting food and non-food items. The team is also starting to consider slum dwellers affected by the violence and we hope they, too, can be given some food rations.
Kisumu has been calm for three days on the trot now with only a handful of pockets of violence but nothing as major as in the previous week. Today and tomorrow will be the deciding days given the opening of parliament as well as planned mass action countrywide. We hope police will not fire live bullets into the crowds tomorrow.
OGRA is now heading the medical team, and we have essentially two teams; a counseling and sanitation team, and a purely medical team. We also are now working with local Ministry of Health officials and government health institutions to offload some of the patients to them once stabilized. Still, finding medical staff is a challenge but we continue to ‘overwork’ the ones we have.
I feel that Direct Relief’s contribution, and the fact that we were first on site for a full week running and financing the emergency effort has been highly appreciated not just by local Red Cross but also by both government and other NGO officials with whom we have been working. Our leadership and fast response saved a lot of lives and we continue to provide leadership and work with other partners. I would also like to mention that Dr. Mike Marks was able to talk to AMREF and Mildmay International (both Direct Relief partners), who have been very helpful to me in providing my medical teams two vehicles for the last week.
I am praying that the worst is over and we can go back to normal life in the near future!”
Violence has escalated since Dr. Hezron sent this update on Monday, as opposition groups resumed their protests of the sitting government. According to the New York Times and other outlets, much of the worst violence in this spike has occurred in Kisumu.