With one baby strapped to her back, another in her arms and a posse of other grandchildren clinging to her skirts, Mary Nyawera stood in line for food rations.
The explosion of violence over Kenya's disputed election has cost Nyawera her home, her livelihood and all four of her sons. She is now the sole provider for 22 grandchildren, all refugees at a border camp in neighboring Uganda.
The 74-year-old was lucky to be called to the front of the line here recently, where she received some ground corn and dried beans.
But the rations fell short of the children's needs.
"The young children need some milk and sugar. They don't eat maize and beans," Nyawera explained.
More than 600 children who have sought refuge in Busia are at risk of malnutrition unless their diets improve, according to James Male of Save the Children.
Thousands fled election violence
Fighting over the disputed Dec. 27 election has pushed thousands into neighboring Uganda. In just one day recently, more than 500 Kenyans crossed the border, bringing to about 7,000 the number of refugees who have sought safety in three Ugandan border towns including Busia.
The International Organization for Migration said it has plans to set up two camps outside the Kenyan city of Eldoret to house up to 10,000 people.
For now, refugees are being housed in schools across the border in the towns of Busia and Malaba, where people are sleeping on mats, sharing meager supplies and lining up for food.
John Karanja, 76, has used what little money he was able to salvage from his looted home to buy his orphaned grandchildren — he fled with 10 of them — milk and other food.
"It is not easy to feed the children. They don't want to eat the food supplied by the charities," he explained.
Three weeks ago Karanja lived in comfort, raising pigs, cows and goats on his farm.
Then a mob armed with machetes arrived. "They destroyed everything, and looted everything. They cut the animals (down) and set fire to what they could not carry with them," he says.
Cash running out
And the cash he managed to escape with is running out.
More than 255,000 Kenyans have fled their homes since supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga began contesting the election, in which President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner. International and local observers have also said the vote was rigged.
Odinga's followers rioted and looted and then turned to ethnic attacks on Kibaki's Kikuyu people.
"My sons had met at their uncle's home, to discuss how they could protect their families in case they were attacked by their enemies, when youths supporting Raila Odinga attacked them," Nyawera said, tears running down her face. "The thugs locked them in the house, set fire on it and they all perished."
When she learned of their deaths, Nyawera gathered all the children, aged from 2 to 17, to head for Uganda. They hurried to cover the 10 miles between their village, Karibuni in western Kenya, and the border.
Many of the refugees making similar journeys have been stopped by informal roadblocks manned by militias to prevent the escape. Some refugees have arrived at the camp with machete wounds.
Clement Mwangai, an unofficial leader of the Kenyan refugees, said many of the refugees are particularly concerned about the plight of Nyawera, who has no one to help her with the 22 orphans. But Mwangai said the others are not in a position to help.
"We all feel sorry for Nyawera but we are helpless. There are over 20 widows in this camp whose husbands were killed in the chaos. Most of them have children and they are struggling to look after them," he said.
Karanja and Nyawera blamed politicians on both sides for their woes.
"If I met Odinga today I would tell him that 'You are a killer,'" Karanja said. "And Kibaki, I would tell him to improve on the security, especially in areas where his supporters are hunted."