January 15, 2008
WebWatch: A Witness in Kenya
Ushahidi.com is mapping out incidents of violence and calls for help.
Believing that the casualties and violence in Kenya were being grossly underreported, the Kenyan blogging community put together Ushahidi.com. Ushahidi means "witness" in Swahili. The website is mapping out occurrences of violence throughout Kenya, asking witnesses to submit incidents on a detailed form on a computer or by SMS. Kenyan NGOs verify the reports before they are shown on the map.
Erik Hersman, who blogs at WhiteAfrican.com, is trying to get the word out, "In hopes that by reaching out and talking to a broad selection of media more people will hear about it and that the news of Ushahidi will trickle down to the Kenyans who need it most."
Could this be the future of crisis aid? Through this site, people are not only able to set the record straight about what's really happening ("There is still a ban in place on live broadcasts related to the election here and this seems to be one way of ensuring that information is not being choked off by the government," writes one blogger), they're also able to communicate with those who have the resources to help them. Some recent posts include:
Some displaced families are going hungry. Rowdy mobs are stopping villagers from taking food to the starving women and children whose property has been looted from the tea estates where they were working. These are third generation workers being evicted in retaliatory attacks. Someone should provide enough security so that the villagers can feed these people without fear.
* * *
Yes there is a lot of need specially food, Mosquito nets for those i saw in Oyugis, they dont have food and i was thinking that if we could get some money we can buy some flour and then we transport them there and give them. I used my own tranport money just to look if things have come back to normal in those places and at least there is movements of vehicles although fares is double due to fuel cost which is very high at the moment. . . I want to thank you all for doing this for Kenyans specially when people are really in need. May God bless you all.
Public radio's The World yesterday reported on the website, which went live last Wednesday.