24 September 2013

Kenya: We Need to Know Fate of Westgate Kin

Photo: Capital FM
Nairobi Westgate mall: Family members of those who perished in the Westgate terror attack have raised concerns over their missing kin.

Nairobi — Families of 64 people who are reported missing have raised serious concern over silence by the government on the current situation at the Westgate shopping mall, which was seized by terrorists on Saturday.

According to the Kenya Psychological Association (KPA), lack of information is causing anxiety among people whose kin have been missing since Saturday.

KPA Chairperson Gladys Mwiti told journalists on Tuesday that the lack of information was affecting the families' and victims' psychological wellbeing.

"We do not have right now actual data of who lost their family member or a relative but we can say that some of the cases that we have seen include those that do not know where their relatives are," she said.

"That is very worrying and very anxiety provoking." The last media brief that the government gave was on Monday at around 3pm. Government agencies have however been randomly tweeting information surrounding the attack, but this information might not be accessible to everyone.

The Kenya Red Cross has so far registered 64 people as missing but information from the non-governmental agency has also not been forthcoming.

"Right now I can only tell you that we have recorded 64 people as those that are missing but I cannot disclose any other details," said a Kenya Red Cross official who declined to be named.

The Visa Oshwal Centre is being used as a tracing and counselling facility but it is not very easy to get in for security reasons. KPA Secretary Sammy Wambugu said that more counselling centres would be opened up with one at the Uhuru Park and another at the City Mortuary.

"We are aware that most Kenyans have been flocking the Uhuru Park and so we want to set up a facility there by tomorrow morning. We also know that people have been going to the morgue to look for their relatives and we will also have a team there to help in the grieving process," he said.

Hostages who were rescued as well as security personnel and children who witnessed the attack are being counselled and given psychological support.

There are also schools that have requested the counselling teams to visit their pupils but Red Cross refused to reveal any details or even number of these schools.

Mwiti said that it was important to counsel them so as to ensure they are able to overcome the emotional suffering they might have endured as a result.

"Some people may suffer false guilt and for instance someone might start asking himself why he allowed his wife and child to go shopping at Westgate instead of the Sarit Centre and there will be people who are grieving and identifying bodies in the morgue so the impact will be huge," she said.

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