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Church arson survivors appeal for medical fund

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 1 – Three children, among a group of people who survived last year’s arson attack on Kenya Assemblies of God church near Eldoret, on Thursday appealed for millions of shillings for specialized treatment in the United States.

Mary Wahito, 16, Mercy Wanjiru, 14, and Antony Njoroge, 11, suffered severe burns on January 1 2008, when tribal fighters set on fire a church where a group of villagers had sought refugee in Kiambaa, killing at least 35 people.

They require 30 million shillings for reconstructive surgery and psychological counselling in the US. Their cause has been taken up by local charities: Disaster Foundation of Kenya and Centre for Justice and Crimes and Against Humanity.

The church incident, which horrified the nation, marked a dramatic escalation of tribal fighting, revenge and police killings touched off by the disputed December 27 presidential elections.

Months of mayhem claimed at least 1,500 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands.

“We bear on our bodies, our hearts and minds the scars of the post election violence and we know we will not heal in a day. But we appeal to all Kenyans of goodwill to come forward and help us raise the funds to undergo the treatment that will enable us to get back to our normal lives,” Wahito told reporters in Nairobi.

After the arson, the children were rushed to Moi University Referral Hospital, but later transferred to the specialised Kijabe Mission Hospital, where they were interned for nine months.

But Kijabe medics, who performed basic treatment, recommended the children to taken to the Shriners Hospital for Burns or the University of California, Los Angeles; both in the United States for surgery.

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A doctor who has been “attending to us informs us that there is nothing more he can do for us here in Kenya and we will have to seek treatment such as reconstructive surgery and skin grafting outside the country,” said Wahito, her eyes welling up.

Despite the life-long scars, the children have forgiven perpetrators of the attack, some of whom are currently facing murder and arson trial in Nakuru.

“They are Kenyans just like us and we forgive them,” Wahito told Capital News, speaking on behalf of the three. The children have now returned to school.

CJCH chairman Mbuthi Gathenji, who led the appeals, said treatment was most urgent.

“There treatment has become more urgent in that they are growing and there are areas in their bodies that need immediate attention. They are minors and as a rule they will have to be accompanied so the money will look into their sustenance and treatment,” he said.

NOTE: Donations can be made to the ‘Heal the Scars Project’ at any of the Equity Bank branches account number 0170293014368.

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