Kakuma 1

Kakuma refugee camp is located in the North-western region of Kenya. The camp/Kakuma 1/ was established in 1992 following the arrival of the “Lost Boys of Sudan”. During that year, large groups of Ethiopian refugees fled their country following the fall of the Ethiopian government. Somalia had also experienced high insecurity and civil strife causing people to flee

.Kakuma 1

Turkana Camels

Turkana Camels have a very good sight, and their eyes are surrounded by long lashes to protect them against winds and sand &34 sharp teeth which allow them to chew almost anything. Despite that they come from dry areas, they are good swimmers. Naturally they will rest during the hot days and feed in the cooler evenings

Suicides soar as refugees grapple with COVID-19

Although suicide is a common issue in displaced settings, its increased prevalence among refugees in Kakuma illustrates a serious and growing problem, which needs urgent intervention through a multi-sector approach. Suicides have been reported in both Kakuma Refugee Camp and the new Kalobeyei settlement. In January, camp residents were shocked that three people (including men and woman) were found dead in apparent suicides in less than one month.

Since the inauguration of former US President Donald Trump, suicides and suicide attempts by both women and men have risen in Kakuma Refugee Camp, as resettlement opportunities decreased. Citing an interview from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) Kakuma office, Citizen Media reported that nine refugees from Kakuma committed suicide in 2017, compared to three refugees in 2016.

Santino, a refugee leader in the new settlement of Kalobeyei, stated: “Life in the camp is getting worse every single day and that is what causes people to think of committing suicide. Improving life circumstances and providing psychological support can reduce suicide cases.”

The change in refugee resettlement policies, especially in the US, has greatly affected refugees living in Kakuma Refugee Camp. When the Trump administration began in January 2017, the resettlement processes of around14,000 Somali refugees were put on hold in Kenya alone. Most refugees had their hopes of the American dream dashed as the Trump administration maintained a tough refugee policy due to alleged security threats. However, according to a 2016 report on correlations between immigration and terrorism by the Cato Institute, a US-based think tank, the chance ofan American dying in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion.

Picture:

Local NGOs conducting a suicide prevention campaign

Recognizing the consequences of the suspension of resettlement to the US, the UNHCR briefed the international community how the situation in Kakuma Refugee Camp could unravel the coming years. In April 2018, the UNHCR report, stating that the mood in the camp was deteriorating and suicide rates were increasing.

Denza, a youth leader in Kakuma, told KANERE: “The causes of the rise in suicides are depression, stress, and hopelessness. UNHCR can address the problem by providing durable solutions, access to services, documentation, work opportunities and education.”

Living on emergency food assistance in confined spaces for decades, with zero or few income-generating opportunities, degrades refugees’ lives, at times causing them to self-harm. The Refugee Health Technical Center, a US-based refugee rights office, cites.

Individuals undergoing long asylum processes often experience anxiety and uncertainty regarding their future. This anxiety is increased by the dire economic situation faced by many, which can lead to attempts to self-harm.

Refugees whose situation remains unchanged for years, with no prospect of finding a solution to their problems, can easily become depressed and exposed to multi-dimensional mental health problems, including suicidal tendencies. Health infrastructures to address mental health problems in Kakuma and Kalobeyei are almost non-existent. Moreover, these have been seriously affected by the Trump presidency.  However, as outlined in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2017 report on suicide prevention, suicide is a mental health problem which can be treated and prevented.

Hafso, a community leader at Kakuma 2, said: “It’s always caused by depression. Life gets tough, you don’t achieve your goals and your needs are not met. It’s in that situation that suicide can become an option.”

Suicide in Kakuma has been a serious refugee social health problem. However, suicides are preventable with timely, evidence-based and often low-cost interventions. Due to the complexity of the problem, responsibility for the effective prevention and reduction of suicide should not be left to a single entity or organization: social, cultural and economic elements must be strengthened to minimize incidents. Furthermore, an interagency suicide prevention approach must be adopted, with active participation from all sectors. Both national and international actors must step up to avert the looming humanitarian catastrophe in Kakuma Refugee Camp.

VOA commences FM Radio Stations for Refugees

Feb,2021

In December 2020, the Voice of America (VOA) launched new FM stations serving refugees living in Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps. The Kakuma office commenced operations on December 18, 2020 duringInternational Migrant Day. The new 99.9 FM station will serve both refugee and host communities with news, music, and educational content in English, Swahili and Somali.

VOA is the only international broadcaster in Kakuma and is expected to develop the media landscape and reshape narratives in both camps.Previously, broadcasting was controlled by aid agencies. The arrival of VOA maynot be good news for those who had been controlling media narratives.

“I have listened to VOA since I was very young and I know that VOA is an independent media station. If it operates in Kakuma,I hope it can give a better platform to air out real events in camp,” a Zonal Leader in Kakuma told KANERE.

Since the inception of refugee camps, media industries have been interested in reporting on camps around the world. In 2017, VOA began broadcasting in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, a camp consisting of mostly Rohingya refugees. Rohingya refugees have been denied the use of the Internet, including mobile phones, and by their host country, Bangladesh. VOA provides an important service in light of these restrictions.

“VOA is committed to providing vital news and information to underserved populations worldwide, including refugees and other forcibly displaced persons,” said VOA Director Robert Reilly, in a statement circulated for inauguration of both offices on December 18, 2020.

 After 30 years, thanks to donor funding, a community radio was launched at the new settlement. However, community access to radio became limited due to dominance of NGO productions, especially after the outbreak of COVID-19. Since NGO support was essential to keep the station running sustainably, the station had no choice but to report according to their funder’s interests.

“What I know is that REF FM Kakuma Radio is ironically called a refugee owned community radio station, but it’s officially owned by an NGO and refugees don’t have a voice to make any decision, “A village leader at the new settlement told KANERE.

Journalism student conducing interviews around Kakuma

Since 2020, the German state-owned international broadcaster, Deutsche Well Academia (DW), in partnership with GIZ office and Film Aid, has been training men and women of different nationalities from Kakuma and the new settlement in media and journalism.

For almost three decades, the only trusted sources of information about Kakuma for the outside world were aid agencies working alongside refugees. Most stories produced by aid agencies present a single point of view and focus on funding and branding.

In addition to providing refugees with information, VOA will play a watchdog role regarding accountability and good governance within refugees’ camps.

In places like Kakuma, a refugee camp with few civil societies, having independent media like VOA will create participatory communication between aid agencies and their beneficiaries. In addition to serving as a bridge, refugees see VOA as an institution thatserves public interest rather than private economic gain.

“We believe in the power of journalism as a tool to empower and engage well-informed citizens, and we believe that our mix of news, cultural, and educational content can enrich the lives of our new listeners in Kakuma,” said VOA Spokesperson, Anna Morris.

VOA, which is funded by the U.S.Congress, delivers programs on multiple platforms, including the radio, television, internet, and mobile via a network of more than 3500 media outlets worldwide.

NGO’s sees Freelancing as a Possible Source of Income for Refugees in Kakuma

February 3,2021

With diminished opportunities for third country resettlement for refugees, UNHCR and its partners have sought new solutions for the growing protracted refugee population in Kakuma and Kalobeyei.

As a response to the lack of economic opportunities in Kakuma, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the International Trade Center (ITC) have come up with a strategy to provide soft skills training to support refugee and host communities to achieve self-reliance. This strategy seeks to address refugee dependency on aid and to improve livelihoods. This strategy has received praise from refugees on its new approach to help refugees build their own livelihoods.

Refugee Employment and Skill Initiative(RESI) is a project initiated by the ITC and implemented by the NRC in Kakuma and in the Kalobeyei settlement. It has been running since 2018,and it uses trade-led and market-based solutions to create income-generating opportunities for refugees and host communities so that they can build towards economic self-reliance.

 “The training is helping me to get a job and I have been working as freelancer” Says, Martha Ali, a 2020 cohort.

The training offers attendees the opportunity to connect with employers to attain online freelance work.

Income-generating trainings have been implemented in Kakuma for decades, but they have not been as successful as developmental projects like refugee employment and life skill initiatives in helping refugees to attain partial financial independence. Like other trainings in Kakuma, RESI has challenges as well; however, with this time of limited and shrinking resources, life skills trainings have been seen as the best opportunity for refugees in Kakuma.

Skill training center at the new settlement

Life skills trainings like RESI has been gaining attentions from refugee’s community due to  the lack of opportunities for incentive work in Kakuma.  For decades, NGOs have hired refugees as incentive workers, in which they are paid a monthly rate that is far below the average salaries of their non-refugee Kenyan counterparts. This has been one of the only available income-generating opportunity  for Kakuma workforce. While incentive jobs have provided an avenue for some refugees to earn a small monthly income, thus fostering some hope for a few, the availability of such opportunities has been shrinking due to funding cuts and Covid-19.

“The lack of access to electricity and network connectivity are the major challenges freelancers have been facing in Kakuma ” says Ide, a RESI Alumni, who is currently working as a freelancer at UP-work.

Even though total self-reliance is not completely possible for refugees in Kakuma, projects like RESI provide at least some opportunities for refugees to become partially independent.

English language, Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship are few courses offered at the center in blended learning formats. 

In addition to providing skills-training, exposure to professional experiences, and networking opportunities, the NRC and the ITC could provide trainees with starter kits, small sums of credit, or other tools in order to increase the chances for refugees to become partially self-reliant. This would require inter-agency and intergovernmental coordination.

RESI is sponsored by the government of Netherlands and is designed to enhance economic capabilities of refugees.

Kakuma refugees predict improved resettlement if Biden wins

By November 2020

Since Trump took the US Presidency in 2016, refugee issues have been heavily politicized not only in US, the global leader in refugee resettlement and humanitarian support, but also in most European countries, where locals have expressed xenophobia towards refugees and asylum seekers.

The Trump administration claimed that they were restricting refugees from “terror prone” countries. But the policy affected refugees from all over the world. Many refugees from Kenya, including those in the US resettlement pipeline, have been living in fear, despair and uncertainty for the past 4 years. As people saw their dreams of resettlement slip away, the number of suicides and problems related with mental health within camp has also increased.

“I have great hope that Biden will restore back the things that Trump mess up during his administration. Biden will lift this Muslim ban to US,” says one Somali refugee, who had been in the resettlement pipeline to US.

Refugees watching the US election results by CNN at Unity Hotel, Ethiopian Community, Kakuma 1/ By Tolossa Asrat – KANERE

The arrival of Trump also slashed support for humanitarian operations. This affected the aid agencies and advocacy groups working for refugees and asylum seekers in Kakuma. These effects have left a huge burden for vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom are dependent on relief food and other forms of support.

“For the past four years, Kakuma has truly been affected by the announcement as Trump being a leader” says Aziza, a refugee in Kakuma.

In the nearly four years since January 20, 2017 (the day Trump took office), only 3000 refugees have been resettled from Kenya. This contrasts with over 6000 refugees resettled in 2016 alone, as per UNHCR monthly operational statistics of August 2020.

Balu, a refugee writer from South Sudan expressed his hope. “USA has been the heart of refugees’ hope, having Biden as President. A good number of refuges will probably see the USA.”

Since Trump’s inauguration, most organizations in the camp were forced to trim their operations, while others have been forced to work with very few personnel. Many incentive staffs have been laid off.

“I had been working as a child protection staff at Lutheran World Federation /LWF/, Kakuma office until 2019 December. I was terminated due to budget cut.” Gazu, an Ethiopian refugee told KANERE.

During his election campaign, Biden has said he will raise the refugee resettlement top limit to 125,000 during his first year in office and will roll back Trump administrations refugee polices. However, some refugees are not optimistic due to the fact that Trump administrations changed a lot of polices concerning refugees and asylum and this might take a lot of time and resources to undo the polices made by Trump.

Transportation Inside Kakuma.

Credit Balu Makwatch

Motorcycle is the main means of transportation within Kakuma & the new settlement .

Photography,Video Content production & Freelancing service in Kakuma Refugee camp ,Kenya

Visit https://kakumafreelancers.wordpress.com/

Covid-19 Myths in Kakuma

March 2020

Covid-19 has not yet reached Kakuma camp, but misinformation is spreading rapidly.

Given the lack of medical infrastructure in Kakuma, it is important that the community does its best to follow public health recommendations that can prevent the spread of the virus. However, misinformation leads people to undertake ineffective strategies, which can be a major waste of energy and resources. Moreover, misinformation may discourage them from following the official guidance of qualified health experts. Worse yet, rumors about how the disease is spread can cause stigmatization and even violence against certain groups.

Myths regarding Covid-19 and awareness intervention from WHO

Much misinformation is spread through the WhatsApp platform. Someone receives a message about Covid-19, and they immediately forward it to all of their groups. They often do this with good intentions, as they believe that they are helping their friends to prepare. But in actuality they are misinforming them.

To draw attention to the spread of misinformation, KANERE reached out to different part of the camp, as well as the Kalobeyei Settlement to find out what misinformation is spreading about COVID -19. Some common misconceptions are listed below:

MYTH #1: Tea Leaf without Sugar Can Prevent the Virus

“A child was allegedly born in Sudan. He told people to drink tea leaf, and that the virus will not attack whoever does so. The child died immediately after speaking this message.” – Group 13 resident

MYTH #2: Covid-19 is God’s Punishment of Rich White People

“This thing is only for rich people and white people. It will not affect black people like me and you. The reports you are hearing now from African governments are fake. They are just trying to get funds. The virus is a punishment from God for those who commit bad things like being gay and stuff.” – Kakuma One

MYTH #3: Hair Inside the Bible

“If you go inside the bible and look, you will find a strand of hair. You are supposed to boil it and drink it, as it is a cure from God. And then tosha! No virus, no bacteria.” New Canada Resident.

MYTH #4: Only Christians are Infected

“Muslims shouldn’t worry about this virus, because it is only affecting Christians. I heard this from a regional MP in my home country. He advised us to read one of the chapters if the Qur’an, seventeen times, early in the morning.” Kakuma Three Resident

KANERE calls for all refugees to read social media messages carefully, avoid spreading misinformation and to follow the instructions from UNHCR and IRC.

Here is UNHCR link to get updates regarding COVID-19.

Using Tech to Bring Services closer to Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the Camp

December 31,2018

Kakuma residents are now able to use their mobile phones to communicate with UNHCR staff and schedule appointments.

Following the 2017 rampant corruption scandals around refugee resettlement from Kenya, access to the UN – Refugee Agency compound in Kakuma has been highly restricted for refugees and asylum seekers. In many cases, field posts site centre have been the only place where refugees can raise their concerns and request protection.

One strategy to counter this trend has been the rollout of the Kiosk to Access Services and Information, known as KASI in short. This platform will channel queries and requests from refugees and asylum seekers to appropriate UNHCR Kakuma offices.

According to UNHCR sub-office head Sukru Cansizoglu, KASI will allow refugees to access key information in their files and schedule their own appointments. His Twitter account claims that more than 10,000 individuals are already enrolled but when contacted by KANERE journalist UNHCR declined to respond to press enquiries.

Appointments for protection, resettlement and other issues can be scheduled in a two-step process. First, refugees wait to meet UNHCR staff and complete registration of their mobile number, after which he or she receives a five-digit enrollment token. From this point, the individual is eligible to schedule his or her own appointments.

Kakuma 1 residents lined up-waiting to register their mobile phones

In the second step, individuals must access a laptop with the ProGress application, through which the actual appointment is booked. Facilities bearing this application will be available in all field posts, allowing refugees to access their files and submit concerns without the intervention of UNHCR staff on the site.

While this new technology can support refugees to access and lodge appointments, how to use same technology may remain a barrier for many people. Many camp residents lack the necessary computer skills to operate the ProGress application. Moreover, there are challenges to making the platform open and widely accessible. Most common obstacles include problems with internet connectivity, maintaining computer systems, and problems of language and literacy. The platform caters for English, Swahili and Somali languages, leaving many of the camp’s residents – such as those from South Sudan – with limited access.

Some of the refugees interviewed by KANERE express difficulties with the new technology as many of the camp residents don’t own mobile phones or unable to operate computers.

“They told me to call someone with computer skills after finishing the two steps process. It takes more than a week to find help because I do not have the computer skills to schedule my own appointment.” – Explained an Oromo refugee, who wishes to remain anonymous at the field post Centre two.

Another challenge pertains to the first stage of the process. To be enrolled in the programme and receive their five-digit number, refugees may have to wait weeks or even longer to access to UNHCR officials. For those with urgent security concerns and need for protection, this remains an unreasonable wait.

“It is just another bureaucracy,” Said Henrik, a community leader who spend more than 25 days waiting to meet the agencies officials to receive his number.

KANERE journalists have approached UNHCR Kakuma on multiple occasion regarding development of new technology but officials were not able to respond to press queries. However, one of the UNHCR staff who wished not to be mentioned in the story, stated that the waiting period has been reduced. “recently, the wait was reduced as UNHCR stepped up its rate of registering of phones, scheduling appointments, and referring cases to the concerned offices.” – UNHCR Kakuma staff

KASI has been a trending topic among the camp residents, with many refugees and asylum seeker are coming to Kakuma camp from Nairobi and elsewhere to register their phones and schedule appointments.

Some interviewees who have completed the whole process claimed that they met UNHCR officials as planned, but lamented that the information and assistance they receive remains limited.

Others, like Ismail Mohamed, a Somali refugee who has been in exile since 2009, are concerned that the platform may be a privacy concern making people’s mobile phones vulnerable to security breaches.

Currently the KASI platform is being manned by four field offices: Field Post one, two, four and Kalobeyei integrated settlement camp.

%d bloggers like this: