Kenya Crisis – My first emergency deployment

Monday 19th October

I have been called up by the Emergencies Team for deployment to Kenya for the Kenya food crisis response. The whole of East Africa is experiencing a third year of failed rains leaving over 20 million people without enough to eat, and the situation is expected to deteriorate. There is just one week until I leave, so I’m off to the travel clinic for a full medical to check I’m fit to go, stock up on malaria tablets and have the vaccinations I need.

Monday 26th October

I arrived in Nairobi this morning and headed straight for Save the Children UK’s Kenya Programme Office, which they share with Save the Children Canada. I was met with a warm welcome – everyone is so friendly which has helped to settle in. Within an hour of arriving I was given a security briefing, which has put me slightly on edge: Nairobi’s status is tense due to the aftermath of the post-election violence and so there are certain areas considered at risk of terrorist attacks which we must avoid, and there is a 2200hrs curfew to be back in our compound. We’re never allowed to walk out at night and must always keep car doors locked and windows up because armed carjackings are extremely frequent.

Out in the field bases the security threats are much greater: there is a curfew of 1700hrs in place for return from our outreach programmes and everyone must travel in convoy in certain areas. This makes logistics a real challenge for the teams up there and constant monitoring of the situation is crucial.

In the afternoon I caught up with Hannah, the wonderfully enthusiastic Information Intern who I’ll be managing and had an introductory meeting with Rob the Emergency Operations Director, to bring me up to speed with the response strategy. There is a huge up-scaling of our programmes about to happen in the Wajir district and so it is all hands to the deck to get this moving fast, so we can have a greater impact for children in these areas. Our task seems ridiculously overwhelming….

I am sharing an apartment with Anne, the HR Advisor and Rob. Living with the big boss will be a new and unusual experience, but my first night here began with Rob cooking us all dinner, so I think I’ll get used to this!

 

Thursday 29th October

The last few days have been a steep learning curve.The internet connection has been a nightmare – my emails have not come through for hours on end, loading websites is painfully slow and so has hindered my progress slightly but am getting used to it and today the connection seems to have improved.  

The role here is already proving extremely interesting and varied: I’m trying to coordinate a programme visit for Spencer Conway, a guy who is embarking on a circumnavigation of Africa on a motorbike for Save the Children, he will travel through 28 countries and cover more than 25,000 miles of the most difficult riding terrain and through some of the most unstable countries on earth, what an amazing thing to do!

I’ve fed back info to head office for the Fragile States Project quarterly report; drafted letters to the Government to inform them our alliance emergency appeal launch, and attended the Kenya Food Security Meeting (KFSM) with all of the relevant Government Ministries, and other NGOs,  which was fascinating to see how the systems all work in practice. On the drive back to the office a herd of cows were grazing along the side of the road, it was unbelievably surreal to witness in the middle of a city. Duncan, the driver told me that sightings like these have been extremely common since the droughts and that people have walked for days and weeks to get to the city where there is still some vegetation for their cattle to eat.

This only brings home just how awful the situation is here, and how harsh the impact must be for all those families living in remote locations.

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Comments

  • Mary Thompson

    Hi Nicola
    Wow what an incredible experience although I am sure you need to be brave too…you will come back with so many very memorable stories and hopefully some of these will be very uplifting and positive ones.
    News from the Thompson household…..we are just back from Luz having had fab weather yet again! Matthew is home for reading week and flies out to Rome with Derek tomorrow to watch their beloved team play Roma…Chess has just heard about her Special Needs Teaching Placement in a couple of weeks time at an independent boarding school which is part of a nationwide charity called the MacIntyre Group… and Livvie is off on a Geography Field Trip to Minehead next week……and not forgetting Potsie who has been updating me on his holiday antics with his best ‘bud’ Toby!!
    We shall be thinking of you and looking forward to reading your blog.
    Love from us all
    xxxxx

  • Pam Morrisroe

    You are doing a great job out there, be careful and come back safely.
    We are all very proud of you and everyone else out there doing the best they can in difficult circumstances.

  • Hi Nichola,

    I am familiar with Nairobi and its tourist spots i.e. navasha, tree tops and the kenya coast. I also have experienced the danger involved in just going down to the fruit market.

    I know that you will be fully involved and committed to the task from which you will undoubtedly reep the rewards (compassion, empathy, understanding, patience and grounding) …. lucky you!!

    Hugs, Magzie xx

  • Tricia

    Hi Nicola. We’ve just had the evening with your Mum & Dad watching ‘Strictly’. We were talking about you and the experience you are having and it reminded me that I’d not checked out your blogs.

    Its great that you are able to have some first hand experience of the work that Save the Children are involved with in other parts of the world as I’m sure it completely serves to reinforce the work that you’ve been involved with in the UK. Undoubtedly it makes it all much more real. Well done you for stepping up to the challenge. We look forward to tracking your trip.

    Keep the head torch to hand for the power cuts and stay safe.

    Lots of love Tricia and the gang! xx

  • Hi Nicola,
    As discused in my privious e mail, it is nice to hear that you have been deployed to Kenya emergency response i hope you will be able to do marblos job there in reaching the needy childrens, i hope you will be comming to Ethiopia also.
    Luck,

  • Lori in Canada

    Hey Nicola, so cool to be able to know what you are up to in such a different part of the world than we know. You are a very brave and adventurous soul. Thinking of you and keeping you in our prayers. Keep safe and healthy.
    much love

  • Julie T-M

    Hi Nicola

    Just about to go for a walk with your Mum & the boys (Toby & Brinks – not your Dad!)so thought I’d see what you’d been up to. Sounds like you have your hands full out there but I know you will rise to the challenge as ever.

    Hope it’s all going well and look forward to seeing you at Christmas.

    Julie x