It can be easy to forget events taking place far away when you don’t know anyone there, but that’s changing for me and plenty of other people living in comfortable, safe places. I’ve now made Kiva loans to people in 15 countries around the world and there’s a face behind news of war or turmoil.
My thoughts are with Samwel Kagotho of Nakuru and Florence Olango of Kisumu and I hope they’re safe.
The news from Ebony Foundation, the local partner for Kiva, is grim:
Dear Kiva Lenders,
I wish to thank you for your continued concern and support during
this very difficult moment in Kenya’s history. We have been a peaceful
Country in a generally troubled region and people sort of took the
peace for granted.
The country is now battered almost to a pulp and blood spilt with
vengeance, senseless killings and wanton destruction. Markets, food
stores and shops have been looted. Hospitals are dysfunctional and
health centers incapacitated by riots and barricades. The violence,
death and destruction witnessed in the Country for the last couple
weeks has jolted the Nation into conscience and every body is now
While peace is slowly returning to all affected parts of the
Country, the impact of the riots has been devastating. Hundreds of
people have been killed turning thousands of innocent children into
helpless orphans and over one million people have been displaced,
becoming internal refugees over night.
The impact of the riots is most felt in the micro and small business
sector. Over 1 million small businesses were looted and or burnt down
destroying the only source of income to millions of Kenyans. Most of
the fighting and destruction occurred in slum areas in Nairobi,
Mombasa, Nakuru and Kericho in Rift Valley. These regions are home to
over 70% of Ebony Foundation’s clients and as you can imagine almost
all of our clients in these regions have been affected by the riots.
Only one region- (Mount Kenya) which is home to about 20% of EbF’s
clients was spared the violence. The economy in this safe region is now
getting stretched as the residents have to now house the displaced
We have recently completed auditing the riot’s impact on our clients
and as of yesterday about 4,900 of our clients had been badly affected
by the riots:
— About 1,532 of our clients were displaced and both their homes
and business premises burnt down. This population is currently housed
in church compounds and police stations.
— Another 2,479 clients had their business premises burnt down or looted leaving them with no source of income at all.
— 833 clients had their homes looted or burnt down and about 56 clients are missing and feared dead or critically injured.
The outpouring of support and willingness to forgive current loans and loan again in the region once it stabilizes in the comment thread on Kiva brought me to tears.
War and other violence are so horribly destructive. Never believe that war is good for any economy, even the American one. (Read more about that particular misguided notion in H.A. Scott Trask’s Ten Recurring Economic Fallacies, 1774–2004 to which Jason Kottke recently provided a timely link).
I fervently hope that serious things like microfinance and wonderful silly little things like Flickr comments can continue to help to build the connections which break down the kind of mental distance that allows war and violence.