Kenya: Promoting preparedness before the elections

23 January, 2013
Simulation exercise in Nairobi. Credit: UNICEF/Minu Limbu
Simulation exercise in Nairobi. Credit: UNICEF/Minu Limbu

Kenya goes to the polls in March, and humanitarian agencies are gearing up in case there is any repetition of the violence that followed the previous elections in 2007-8. OCHA Eastern Africa is coordinating the humanitarian elements of a contingency plan led by Kenya’s National Disaster Operations Centre.

“The old wisdom is to hope for the best but plan for the worst,” explains Modibo Toure, Kenya’s Humanitarian Coordinator. “This does not mean that we expect things to go wrong,” he adds.

The aim is to make sure that humanitarian agencies and partners are as well-prepared as possible to manage the effects of any violence. 

The plan has been finalized, eight humanitarian hubs have been established across the country and assessment trainings have been conducted with partners countrywide. At a simulation exercise held in December in Nairobi, participants worked on the three coordination mechanisms of contingency planning, humanitarian hubs and training for the Kenya Initial Rapid Assessment (KIRA) process.

OCHA Eastern Africa helped to start the process of contingency planning in April 2012 at local and national levels. Discussions have been held in numerous locations across Kenya to provide analysis and identify capacity at the field level.  Response plans have been developed that will help to provide food, shelter, basic household items, nutritional support and protection, in the event that people are forced from their homes.  

The humanitarian hubs will be run by agencies who already maintain a strong presence in these areas. They will provide support for coordination and act as points of information collection, analysis, dissemination and reporting. They will also be points of convergence where organizations can position staff and resources, and they will provide additional capacity to support Government and first-line response organizations.

“The hubs are mobilizing national and local capacities and every step of the exercise has been undertaken in support of the wider Government preparedness plan,” explains Gabriella Waiijman, Officer in Charge, OCHA Eastern Africa.

More than 120 people have been trained in the KIRA process, in four of the eight hub locations (Isiolo, Nairobi, Mombasa and Eldoret), under the contingency plan for the pre-election and election period. KIRA is a comprehensive assessment process that includes multiple agencies working in different areas of humanitarian assistance. 

OCHA-Eastern Africa organized these training exercises and co-facilitated them with ACAPS and UNICEF. Those trained include representatives of the Government of Kenya, the Kenya Red Cross Society, UN agencies and NGOs. The training exercises reviewed the assessment methodology and included WFP-led simulations in which participants had to prepare the outcomes of mock assessments. Further training is planned for partners working in the Nakuru, Kisumu, Garissa and Nairobi hub coverage areas in the second half of January and early February 2013; it is hoped that over 200 people will benefit.

These activities complement efforts by the Government, civil society groups, NGOs, UN agencies and other partners across Kenya, to mitigate potential violence, through peace-building activities, conflict resolution, constant surveillance and analysis.