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Health Crisis Emerges Amid Kenya Instability

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

Sporadic violence continues in Kenya. International negotiators are pressing for a political resolution to the conflict that has raged since disputed elections in late December. The violence has spread to just about all aspects of daily life, including healthcare.

Felipe Ribiero is a medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders. We spoke to him today as he was just returning to Nairobi from the Rift Valley, where most of the violence has taken place.

Mr. FELIPE RIBIERO (Doctors Without Borders): The first problem that we are facing in the field and in the field is the fact that the health facilities, for some of them at least, are not functioning at all, knowing that the health workers are also victims of these clashes are some of them had to run away.

SEABROOK: Ribiero says some hospitals and clinics are sorely understaffed and undersupplied. Others have closed. This is especially a problem, Ribiero says, for Kenyans who suffer from chronic diseases.

Mr. RIBIERO: We do have some agents suffering from tuberculosis or HIV/AIDS. And we do find actually quite a lot of them not having the treatment with them and we're trying to do whatever we can to provide them the treatment.

SEABROOK: Doctors Without Borders has also set up first aid stations and clinics. They're operating mobile clinics in rural areas where the relief organization has found groups of people displaced by the violence. Ribiero says one of the tragedies of the conflict in Kenya is that the country's healthcare system had been considered one of the best, most stable in that region of Africa.

Mr. RIBIERO: Our patients are basically as we are all very surprised, amazed about how far and how fast this crisis went, and the violence of the clashes. And nowadays people live more in a kind of waiting situation, not really knowing what will be next and what will be the next future.

SEABROOK: Among other things, Doctors Without Borders is now focusing on food security. Ribiero notes that it is now planting season in western Kenya, and in some places it appears people are not working the fields. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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