History, as of April 2008

April 30, 2008

Beth Cole and Megan Yarberry

Dispute over results of the 2007 Kenyan presidential election resulted in widespread demonstrations and ethnic violence. In the first 2 months of 2008, over 1500 people lost their lives, and over 300,000 people were displaced. As many as 12,000 Kenyans made their way into neighboring Uganda.

Early in March, and under strong international pressure to find a resolution, the Kenyan government has signed a power sharing deal with the opposition party' a first step toward lasting peace.

Kenyans have lost family members, homes and businesses; schools and churches have been burned down. Many of the refugees in Uganda say that it is still too dangerous to return to Kenya. Some say they may never go back.


Current Situation and Need for Aid

One specific need among the refugee population is treatment for the psychological effects of trauma. The humanitarian organization World Vision is looking at the psycho-social needs of the refugees, while UNHCR has taken part in an assessment aimed at identifying and helping the most traumatized Kenyans.

"Many refugees are traumatized,"said Yumiko Takashima, head of a UNHCR emergency response team deployed in Uganda. "Most of them are educated and were running small businesses. With their houses burned down and their shops looted, they simply lost everything. More important, refugees feel they have been betrayed by their close neighbors."

The Response

In an effort to meet this need, Real Medicine Foundation (RMF) Team Whole Health will bring acupuncture services to the camps they visit. Recent studies suggest that acupuncture may be as effective as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for psychological conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"Acupuncture is a proven, easily transportable, and cost-effective healthcare tool," says Megan Yarberry, RMF's Team Whole Health Project Coordinator 'We're hoping to provide support and healing to hundreds of people each day."

Acupuncture is used as a regular part of many public health clinics in the United States for conditions ranging from mental health to addictions to HIV/AIDS. It is increasingly recognized as an effective tool for people who have been traumatized by disaster, whether man-made or natural.


The RMF Team Whole Health will travel to Kenyan refugee camps to provide acupuncture services. Local healthcare workers will be trained in a basic acupuncture protocol to relieve lingering psychological trauma. RMF is arranging continued support for local teams to supply on-going acupuncture treatments.

In addition to providing acupuncture, RMF will make provisions for a temporary secondary school. Currently the children in secondary are not attending school due to a lack of funds for shelter, teacher’s salaries and materials such as books, chalkboard, etc. RMF is raising funds for a large tent to shelter the children, annual teachers’ salaries, and supplies.

School teacher, Clare Apio, has requested training in stress reduction techniques. RMF will procure art supplies and provide art therapy. Director of Team Whole Health, Beth Cole, will lead the children in yoga techniques including simple physical and breathing exercises and guided meditation to reduce stress. The teachers will receive training and be provided with a yoga manual so the lessons can continue when the Real Medicine Team departs.

You can help by donating here, and specifying 'Kenyan Refugees' in the Note to Real Medicine.
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Country Page: Uganda Initiative Page: Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement Project