It’s been a very tense few days here in Nairobi. While I was finishing my food shopping on Saturday, I received a phone call from one of my fellow PULSE volunteers out in Kisumu, Kenya asking if I was OK because there were shootings at a mall here in Nairobi. This was the first that I heard about the shootings, which was at a different mall than the one that that is near me. When I arrived back at my apartment, my roommate had also heard about the shootings at the Westgate Mall which is about 15 Kilometers (9 miles) away from us. When we turned on the television and saw that it made CNN, we knew that it was not just random violence. When I received an alert from the US Embassy and my roommate received an alert from the German Embassy we knew it was a very serious situation.
The first thing that I did was to Email my wife and let her know what happened and that I was OK. I then sent an Email to our GSK PULSE coordinator to let her know what happened here in Nairobi, and that my roommate and I were both OK. Within less than an hour Sue, who is our GSK PULSE contact, replied back to me. The people at AMREF, the NGO where I am working, also contacted us to make sure that we were both OK.
This terrorist attack by al-Shabaab has left 65 people dead, including women and children, and has left over 175 people wounded. One of the people killed in the attack worked in the accounting department for AMREF, and the Director General of AMREF escaped the mall without any injury. The Westgate Mall was finally cleared today, with 5 of the terrorists dead and another 10 captured.
This attack has solidified Kenyan unity to a level that I have not seen since the World Trade Center attack in New York in 2001. Any tribal differences have been put aside, and the Kenyan people turned out in large numbers in the response from the hospitals in Nairobi for blood donations for the wounded. There have also been over 2 million Kenya Shillings donated by the Kenyan people in just 2 days to aid the wounded.
It has been quite a year so far for the PULSE volunteers for GSK with this attack here in Nairobi, the unrest in Egypt, and the post election tensions in Cambodia. But we still keep going with our assignments knowing that we are helping to make the countries where we are working a better place. Please note that GSK Security is closely watching these situations and monitoring events in all countries where PULSE volunteers are working. I received additional Emails from the US Travel Agency, Reardon, and from GSK Corporate Security checking to make sure that I was OK and keeping me updated on the situation here in Nairobi.
If you are on an international assignment, make sure that you have registered with your embassy so they know that you are in the country and that you can receive any information from them in case of any emergency. For the PULSE volunteers from the US, you can register online with the State Departments’ Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at https://step.state.gov/step