Humanitarian and political background
Kenya is hosting close to 480,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, as well as in urban areas. The majority (over 350,000) are Somali, displaced either during the collapse of the Somali state in the early ‘90s, or more recently because of drought.
In late 2013, conflict in South Sudan led to a rise of South Sudanese refugees in Kenya, which had until then been in decline. Currently, 97,000 South Sudanese refugees reside in Kenya, most of them in Kakuma. Others are from Ethiopia and the DR Congo. The recent conflict in Burundi has also led to an increase of asylum seekers.
During 2017, the Horn of Africa entered widespread drought due to the failure of rains exacerbated by conflict, particularly in South Sudan, which creates the conditions for more refugees coming to Kenya.
The drought has made 3 million people food insecure and over 500,000 children acutely malnourished. This situation, exacerbated by localised conflict over limited resources and competition for political representation, contributes to internal displacement. As the drought is regional in nature, it will add to exceptional migration and displacement of vulnerable people both across international borders and within Kenya.
UNHCR, the National Government, the County Government of Turkana and the host community have agreed to relieve pressure on Kakuma camps with a new settlement in Kalobeyei, where refugees share services, with the host communities.
NRC has provided assistance in Kenya since 2007.
Kenyans displaced by climate and conflict
While there are no official or up-to-date figures on internal displacement in Kenya, violence following the election in 2007-2008 displaced 50,000 Kenyan nationals inside the country. In total, around 300,000 people fled the conflict, settling in urban areas.
In February 2016, the government announced that all households who had been displaced after the election have now been resettled. However, inter-communal conflict has affected the north Rift Valley and the country's northeastern regions, with over 200,000 people displaced.
Kenya faces recurrent drought, disease, malnutrition and food insecurity. It also experiences inter-communal conflicts over resources. While categorised as a lower middle-income country with social and economic development, pockets of the country are susceptible to shocks.
Here in these pockets, highly vulnerable refugees and host communities are in need of humanitarian assistance. They often live in arid and semi-arid lands and insecure areas, particularly along borders.
Intention to close the refugee camps
In November 2013, UNHCR, Kenya and Somalia signed a Tripartite Agreement. This legal framework provides for the safe and dignified voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees from Kenya, as well as their reintegration in Somalia.
However, following the growth of terrorist cells and several attacks in the country, there has been political pressure to return refugees in Kenya to their country of origin. In May 2016, the government announced that their refugee affairs department will be disbanded, and that they intend to close Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp.
In November 2016, the Kenya government delayed the closure of Dadaab refugee camp by six months following calls by the international community worried about the protection of the refugees. The closure of the camp was blocked by Kenya's high court in February 2017.
People we helped in Kenya in 2016
NRC in Kenya
NRC helps refugees and internally displaced people in Kenya's camps access clean water, food and education, and helps them exercise their rights.
We provide basic quality education to displaced children and youth, and tailored programmes for those who have missed out on school.
Our education activities:
- Provide children and youth with literacy, numeracy and vocational skills.
- Make sure out-of-school children and youth can catch up to their peers, through accelarated learning and youth programmes.
- Encourage girls to continue their education.
The training that I acquired from [NRC's youth] programme helped me to reach my dream career as a journalist.
Kin Abdi (25) took a journalism course at the Dadaab Youth Education Centre. Thanks to her determination, she got a job as a radio presenter and now has one of the most popular radio shows in the camp.
NRC distributes food and food vouchers to people affected by displacement.
In our work for food security, we:
- Distribute food provided by the World Food Programme (WFP).
- Provide cash transfers to promote livelihood recovery.
- Train people in business management and development, supporting them to improve their livelihoods.
Information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA)
NRC provides Somali refugees in Dadaab and Kakuma with information and counselling, and assists them in returning voluntarily and safely to Somalia. NRC also implements ICLA activities to assist the internally displaced population in Mandera, with an emphasis on access to housing, land and property rights and civil documentation.
Through our ICLA activities, we:
- Run the return help desks in Dadaab camp, together with UNHCR and Kenyan authorities.
- Advocate for safe, voluntary and dignified returns.
- Gather information on which areas are safe to return to, and share it with Somali refugees planning to return.
- Provide information, counselling and legal assistance on how to access housing, land and property rights and civil documentation, and training on how to resolve land disputes through collaborative dispute resolution.
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)
Water is a human right. Access to clean water and sanitation can save lives and reduce the risk of disease. Providing life-saving assistance, NRC develops infrastructure, treats water, constructs latrines, manages waste, and runs hygiene awareness campaigns.
Our WASH teams work to:
- Facilitate access to clean water and latrines.
- Reduce mortality.
- Raise hygiene awareness.
Learning a new skill against all odds
Istarlin is a 17-year-old who has lived in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp since 2009. She is funny, easy to talk to and a class favourite. She is also visually impaired.
Promoting access to legal identity and documentation
“My child was born in in 2013. We were asked to come back after six months for his birth certificate. It’s taken years.”