By Susan Onyango, IFRC
The Kenya Red Cross Society was the first to respond after an attack by an armed group at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi on 21 September.
Within the first hour, the National Society had sent 12 Advanced Life Support ambulances to the scene, which were supported by a team of paramedics from the Emergency Medical Services (E-Plus) and a fleet of service vehicles. The response time was improved because a Red Cross ambulance had been on standby at the mall’s roof-top parking lot.
The Kenya Red Cross Society worked closely with other institutions to evacuate casualties to nearby hospitals.
As the situation continues to unfold, the society is providing vital services to those affected by the crisis. “Kenya Red Cross Society has set up a tracing and information help desk at the Visa Oshwal Centre on Ring Road opposite Nakumatt Ukay. All missing persons are recorded there,” said Abbas Gullet, Secretary General, Kenya Red Cross Society. Red Cross volunteers are also attempting to reunite families and are encouraging people to fill out a missing persons report, using a form found at http://www.eplus.co.ke/index.php/missing-persons.
A psychosocial team is also on site at the Centre to provide support to the friends and families of those who were injured or killed in the attack, as well as those who were evacuated from the shopping mall.
Due to an increased demand for blood, the Red Cross launched a blood donation drive that saw 2,972 units collected from five towns across the country. Blood donor clinics will continue at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park and at the Mombasa Polytechnic today.
The humanitarian operation continues to be led by the Kenya Red Cross Society which is providing constant updates as the situation develops through its online and social media channels, including www.kenyaredcross.org, Twitter and Facebook.
The Westgate Shopping Mall is a popular shopping centre with the diplomatic community, Kenyans and foreigners in Nairobi. More than 1,000 people were safely evacuated from the mall during the attack which has, to date, left 68 dead and more than 175 injured.