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.
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.
he Kakuma refugee camp has been hit by a shortage of water since January, forcing camp residents to wake in the middle of the night to queue with their jerricansat community water taps for morning collection. Although water shortages have become the norm during dry seasons, the current shortage is worse than usual.
Due to stress caused by the shortage, chaos and fighting at the taps have become a daily routine for many refugees. Furthermore, women and children must travel longer distances than usual to fetch water from other communities’ taps, which can be a significant risk for their safety.
Part of the problem is over-crowding. When the camp was established in the 1990s, it was supposed to holda maximum of 70,000 residents. But by 2018, the population is more than double that, with nearly 170,000 residents.
In places like Kakuma One with high population density, water shortages can spark conflict between Ethiopian and Somali communities as stress and frustration builds at shared community taps.
According to UNHCR policy, the minimum standard for water is 20 liters per person per day. However, given the dust and heat in Turkana, refugees often need additional water for drinking, for cleaning dishes and clothes, for taking baths, and for cooking meals.
Currently water is rationed two times per day: first in the morning between 7:00AM and 9:0AM and then during lunch hour, between 12:00AM and 2:00 PM. Halima, a Somali woman in Kakuma, explains, “If you miss the morning collectiontime, it is very difficultto get the lunch hour distributions. Even now, we are unable to buy it from the women who sell water.”
Kasu, Ethiopian Block 10 leader, complains about the burden of providing water to people who come to the tap from other communities. “We are receiving very small quantities of water compared to other times. And yet we are expected to allocate for people who come to our taps from other blocks in the camp?”
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has handled water distributions since 2015, when they took over responsibility for water from Lutheran World Federations (LWF). According to the NRC, the cost of the fuel needed to pump water is high, but using solar powered pumps – which operate for six to seven hours each day – saves about 40 per cent of the costs of running diesel generators.
Nonetheless, refugees have continued to experience water shortages. Some are forced to buy water from informal traders, who sell 20 liters at a price of 30 to 50 Kenyan shilling.
The rainfall in Turkana is roughly minimal but can be highly erratic and unpredictable, with annual rainfall varying widely from 120mm to500 mm per year. Ms. Malim Aden, a 52 year–old mother of four, says that the current shortage started in January 2019, when the dry season set in.
Officials from both UNHCR and NRC are yet to respond on how they will address the current water crisis.
Refugees in Kakuma and Kalobeyei will soon have access to a new smartphone application designed to increase access to critical information despite high data costs and poor network coverage. RELAY is a community app developed by REFUNITE, an NGO that is best known for its use of phone technologies to reunite families separated through forced displacement.
RELAY, provides a centralized platform for the dissemination of information such as news alerts. However, unlike other apps that require users to download news directly from the networks, RELAY relies on the distribution of information through peer-to-peer connections between users living together in the same local area.
“Due to unstable internet connections in Kakuma, installation is a key challenge for the roll-out of new phone applications.” However, product owner Philea Adhanti explained, “we are using also file sharing applications like Xender, Shareit and CMTransfer or Bluetooth to pass on the application to People using RELAY staffs inside the communities. After one person has installed the application, they can send it to the phones of other users in their vicinity through file sharing technologies.”
Lack of awareness among users was another challenge raised by Adhanti. “Even though it looks like Relay may be similar to other social media apps, it is more of a close, local community information center than a place to share personal thoughts.”
The current version of RELAY includes an “official” feature that will be used by NGOs and humanitarian organizations who are working in the camp, as well as four other key features including News, Support, Interests and Events. For the latter features, and with the aim of reducing abusive language and antagonistic posts, only accredited uses can post and publish their content in real time, without review by the central team. Some refugees interviewed by KANERE claim that their contributions are sometimes turned down, or and sometimes they are published only after a prolonged review time.
In many ways, RELAY is a game changer for service delivery in the camp and can revolutionize the conventional means of circulating information. Aziz, an Ethiopian student living in Kakuma One, explained, “The number one reason that I like RELAY is that I get access to up-to-date information like scholarship opportunities. I recently saw an African Union scholarship for refugees published on the app. If not for the app, I wouldn’t have seen that opportunity and missed the deadline.”
However, some refugees interviewed by KANERE feared that the tool would become a conduit for aid propaganda. Currently Lutheran World Federations (LWF), National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) and Peace Wind Japan are the official users of the app, using the platform to reach out to their target audiences.
Another concern is privacy of the users of the Relay. A representative from the RELAY team claimed that the organization is operating according to the law and with respect for users’ privacy in general.
However, not everyone is convinced. Ekodur, a journalism student at Film Aid, complained to KANERE, “It is a systematic way of stealing information’s from your pocket, I had it before but now I want to remove it from my phone.”
In response of the number of total subscribers, and until the time of publications of this article, RELAY has more than 2000 active subscribers in the camp.
KANERE also confirmed that, Relay APP would be available starting from August 2019 in Android Play Store, an online download centre for android applications.
At least three refugees sustained gunshot wounds while property of unknown value was stolen by armed night-time attackers
The incident was recorded on the night of July 7, 2019 at around 12:30am, when unidentified men armed with guns broke into a family’s house in Kakuma One (Zone 1, Block 4). The attackers damaged the outer fence upon entering. They looted the home, taking objects like bags of clothes, TV sets, food rations and mobile phones at gun point. During the event, they also shot a neighbor who arrived at the scene after they heard the chaos from within the targeted house.
“I heard the scream of a woman coming from my neighbor’s house, but when I reached their gate, l was shot in my right leg and fell down,” explained the neighbor Simon to a KANERE journalist
Simon describes the incident as horrific. “I saw a few of the attackers in the darkness. It was horrible to witness them forcing a lady at the house to pack her belongings for them.”
Two days later, on July 9, a similar attack was carried out by unidentified armed men who looted the home of a family living in the same block. A refugee woman identified as Halis was shot on her right shoulder, and when the bullet exited her back, it injured her child on the right ear, slightly missing his head. This incident happened at around 3:00am but victims did not receive any first aid until they were transported to the camp clinic an hour later. “I thought I will die from heavy bleeding,” Halis explained. “I was asking myself, what have I done to deserve such punishment?”
Halis is from Somalia and has lived in Kakuma for many years. She expressed concern her son has been traumatized from the gunshots. “He (her son) is recovering, but he looks paralyzed and did not talk for some days. We live in fear.” While concerned for her family’s safety, Halis has no option but to continue living in fear every day.
Following the attacks on July 7th and 9th, angry residents of Kakuma One – mainly youth from Somali community – marched to the offices of the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS) to submit their complaints about the repeated nighttime attacks. However, while the demo was marching from the Kakuma community center to the agency offices, the angry refugees encountered host community members near the UNHCR compound. A fight ensued and both refugees and hosts sustained injuries before police arrived at the scene, dispersing the energetic crowd.
“The refugee protesters think the members of host community they met outside the agency compound may have included some of the nighttime attackers, while members of the host community believe that refugees were coming to attack them in town. But it seems like much of this fight resulted from a big misunderstanding,” explained a security guard who preferred to remain anonymous.
Several convoys of UNHCR staff were allegedly spotted leaving the compound in the direction of the airport under armed police escorts. However, security forces managed to contain the situation, such that businesses in the camp reopened by the end of July 12.
“The clash on July 10 started when innocent people from both the refugees and the host groups-initiated confrontations by throwing stones but the ultimate cause of the confrontation was the repeated robbery attacks at nights,” Ahmed Mohamed explained to a KANERE reporter.
In interagency meetings, Turkana County Secretary Peter Eripete warned that conflict between the refugees and the host community risks interrupting the implementation of Kalobeyei Integrated Socio-Economic Development Programme (KISEDP), which has been hailed as an innovative model for integration of refugees and host community. “I advise the local community to channel existing grievances to the right authorities, because the escalation of disagreement paints a poor picture of integration efforts.”
Following the July 10 incident, UNHCR called for a mediation meeting in its compound to that would include leaders and elders from both the refugee and host communities with an aim to pass resolutions of community peacebuilding. The meeting was called for July 14.
During the course of the chaos, there no deaths were confirmed, contrary to the news circulating on social media. Those injured during the fight have sought treatment at the camp clinics. Kasili Mitambo – RAS officer in Kakuma – explained in a mediation meeting that “during the incidents, the refugee groups and local community did not clash, and reports of deaths that were circulated on social media were greatly exaggerated.”.
The UNHCR Head of Sub-Office Sukru Cansizoglu did not respond to inquiries by KANERE about the insecurity caused by armed night attacks in the refugee camp.
KANERE is appealing to the residents of Kakuma refugee camp and the host communities to refrain from violent confrontations and embrace peaceful co-existence going forward. However, so long as night-time robberies persist, camp authorities should take action to hold those responsible to account.
*Names of victims were changed due to security reasons.
REF FM, a new community radio for and by refugees in the Kalobeyei Settlement, is now ready to commence broadcasting for refugees and the host communities.
Kalobeyei Settlement was launched in 2015 after the UNHCR and the Government of Kenya agreed to pilot a new approach to refugee protection by promoting the self-reliance of refugees and the host population through livelihood opportunities and inclusive service delivery. The new approach was developed around the “Choice Theory”, which favors enabling environments that allow refugees and the host population to maximize their potential.
The Kalobeyei Integrated Socio-Economic Development Plan (KISEDP) was officially launched on 2018 December, providing a vision for the first 15 years of this approach. The project is expected to benefit half a million people, out of which 40% are refugee beneficiaries from East African countries. If it succeeds, the FM community radio program will be an additional resource for youth refugees and host communities who have very limited options for education, entertainment and education.
REF FM is intended to foster a growing network of radio stations to help refugees speak out and become more self-reliant even when camp economy remains grey. It is undertaken within a broader vision in which various radio stations will communicate with each other across a network allowing them to learn from each other and share programs, journalists and reactions from listeners, and also inspire each other.
The REF FM website includes a description of their purpose: “Worldwide the number of refugees tends to grow but donor money per refugee tends to shrink. Refugees are more and more required to become self –reliant: from inactive and aid depend helpless ‘outcast’ who beg for support, to active participants in host societies.”
According to the website of the REF FM, the new community radio is still under construction. The studio has been built, the equipment has been installed, the crew has been trained and it is now waiting for the license and the FM-frequency.
The new REF FM will be the second community-based radio, sharing air space with the Ata Nayecha FM station in Kakuma town. Ata Nayeche FM was established with support from International Organization for Immigration (IOM) and funding from Japan. It covers a 70-kilometer radius and enjoys an audience of approximately 120,000 listeners. It has been broadcasting from 5:00 AM to 11:00 PM daily in three languages: Kiswahili, Turkana and Arabic.
Officials of the FM station could not be reached for comment.
At least five people were killed in an inter-ethnic conflict in Kakuma Refugee camp that spanned at least 3 days. The conflict was sparked on the evening of December 10, 2019 during a football match between the South Sudan and Sudan football teams at Kakuma 3, Zone 2, Block 13. What started as a skirmish on the football pitch escalated as larger revenge attacks were carried out in places of residence. By the next day, much of Kakuma 3 was affected by general insecurity and movement by both foot and vehicle were halted for days, including for NGOs.
Gatjack, a leader in Kakuma 3, explained how the fight began: “There was a football match between Nubians (team Sudan) and Lotuko (team South Sudan) on December 10th. The South Sudan team included a Dinka player as a goalkeeper. Nubians succeeded in scoring a goal. The Nuer spectators were supporting Equatorians, and they were standing right behind the Nubians goalkeeper. They laughed when a goal was scored, and then the Dinka goalkeeper beat one of the boys who had laughed at him. At this point, the other Nuer was watching from the distant came and tried to stop the goal keeper. Then the Nubians came and chased the Nuer guy who tried to save the small boy who was being beaten. There was a lady who was watching this, and she came and informed the Nuer youth in the community.”
People who had been watching the conflict closely told KANERE that youth groups are using social media platforms like WhatsApp group messaging to mobilize and attack each other.
The sister to one of the deceased explained, “People fought here and we had no idea what was going on. On the morning of December 11th, they organized and came to attack us at Kakuma 3, Zone 3, Blocks 8. They started beating everyone, so most people ran to river. The attackers even went to Clinic 7 area, but they were pushed back by our youths. People died on that day. In the morning they came but they were chased away. I left my brother with three boys in my home and went around communities, they came and killed him the two boys lucky as they run and escaped. She added that he was a 13 years old boy.
The Nuer community living in Blocks 6 and 7 of Zone 3 claimed that they are not feeling safe. Because the blocks are located on the outskirts of Kakuma 3, the attackers might come any time for revenge.
A 22-year old boy told KANERE they came for the first time, they chased us and captured two of us. They were beaten to death I lost consciousness and so they thought I was dead. They left us there and I was fortunate to survive.”
The leader also told KANERE that “they might come any time for revenge, so we are having sleepless nights.”
“Our team had a Dinka goalkeeper and he fought with a Nuer boy who was supporting the Equatorials. Then Nubians tried to solve the fight because the two tribes had a historic feud. So, the Nubians sent away the Dinka keeper to avoid further escalation. Then everyone went on with the match. On the evening of December 10, one of the players was sitting in front of his shelter. The youth from the other side came and beat him with Pangas. The youth passed away while he was going to the hospital.
I received the warning message not to come back to my shelter. They sent a person whom I knew him very much,” Selman, a displaced Nubian told KANERE.
“They are saying it was started due to football, but let me tell you this is not just a football feud. There was something behind it. The Nubians and Nuers have not been fighting like this. They are actually not our enemies, but they were blindfolded by our historical enemies. This was politically motivated. We think it was financed from Juba,” explained Choul, a youth leader in Kakuma 2.
However, Menkoyer, a youth leader in Hong Kong, dismissed Choul’s views, claimingthat he lacks credibility. Peace was brokered with the help of Refugee Affaires Secretariat (RAS) and Darfurian community elders over the course of two days of leaders’ meetings. However, many Nubians who were displaced from their shelters refused to return back to their shelters.
“Conflicts between refugees or with host, if not managed well, ran the danger of implementation of the Kalobeyei Integerated Socio-Economic Development Programme(KISEDP) which has been hailed as a global model for integration of refugee and Host community.” Top GOK official said in a meeting at UNHCR compounded on the time of resolving conflicts between Somali and Turkana Community on July 13, 2019.
Abadi Hussen, who is a spokesman for 56 displaced Nubians living in Kakuma, explained, “I was living in the Gambela Community and our community leaders – for both block leadership and security – are Nuer. So, we feared for our lives and took refuge at Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Kakuma 1.’’
“We solved our differences with the help of RAS and our Darfurian brothers. But our communities refused to return back to their shelters, especially those who were displaced from Kakuma 3, Zone 3, Blocks 1,2,4,5,6,8,12 and 13. Also people from Kakuma 2, Zone 2, Block 6. They feared they might be attacked.”
Even long after the conflict was resolved, some Nubians who were displaced from their shelters were still living with other Nubians in Kakuma 3.
Seven people died in the Kakuma refugee camp after torrential overnight rains, with some swept away while crossing rivers, a zone leader in Kakuma 1 told KANERE.
“On Friday the 22nd, we experienced heavy rains in camp. This rain washed away 8 houses that accommodated more than 60 non-accompanied minors,” explained the leader of Zone 3, Block 7. The leader explained that the remaining 15 households are at risk and urgently require relocation. He added that if it rains now, the lives of these minors are in imminent danger.
Leer, a Block 4 leader, told KANERE, “32 boys, all minors, are living in one shelter. He is demanding urgent support for them.
Michael a South Sudanese leader in Hong Kong explained how his area was affected: “The worst part is that we lost the life of a 22-year old youth representative from our community. He lost his life while trying to cross the river around 11:00 AM on the 23rd”. Michael explained that river, which is usually bone dry, was as deep as 2 meters in some places.
“It was very hard for us to find his body. We found it almost at the border of Ethiopia after we traveled for more than seven hours. We buried him there because his body was destroyed and we were unable to bring it here,” Michael told KANERE when he was asked about the burial certificate of the deceased.
“This rain also took a pregnant woman from the Congolese community and a young daughter” Michael told KANERE.
Following the August – November, heavy rain advisory from the Kenya Meteorological Department, the UNHCR together with FilmAid sent a message to the entire refugee community in the camp, warning them to take the necessary precautionary measures. A few days later, on the midnight of September, torrential rain mixed with powerful wind destroyed shelters and caused property damage.
“Flash floods in Kakuma have led to the destruction of food rations and the demise of four refugee children so far” reported community-based organization FAULU in a tweet following the November rains.
The UNHCR distributed shelter material and ration for the most affected communities after torrential rain destroyed and displaced thousands.
When it rains, flooding and mudslides are now common occurrences in Kakuma.
“We lost property and lives. We lost too much,” lamented Ajang Deng, a zone leader in Hong Kong.
The camp is now disconnected. It is difficult to go out to fetch water, and the rain can easily sweep away latrines throughout the camp, which makes the communities more worried about the break out of deadly outbreak like cholera.
On November 23rd the high way connecting Turkana County with the rest of the country was cut-off due to heavy rains, which washed away a bridge. The Kenyan High way Authority dispatched a notice to motorist to exercise extra caution and patience, advising them not to attempt to cross the cut-off section of the highway.
Following the bridge collapse, the community leaders told residents of the Kakuma camp to save their rations, because food distribution for December might be delayed until the bridge was repaired. The situation was restored after about two months and rations collections resumed as usual.
In the year 2018, Somalis and members of the Ethiopian Muslim community held a half-day of prayers at Kismayo Primary school due to lack of rain in the camp, which had caused a water shortage and conflict among communities. The community prayer was heard but they got more than what they asked for.
“It was scary for us; the rain on October 8th took two shelters that accommodated nine people, and many of the block needed urgent relocations,” explained Said Omod, the block leader in Kakuma 1, Zone 2, Block 9, a congested area inhabited by the South Sudanese Didinga community.
One Ethiopian man, recalling climatic patterns in Kakuma for the past 20 years, mused that “fatal floods and rains have been frequent in Kakuma these days.”
On October 23 2019, around five houses were washed away following just one-night heavy rain.
Kakuma is Kenya’s second largest refugee camp, with about 200, 000 inhabitants, many of them living in precarious humanitarian shelters which are not safe or durable.
It is a huge loss for my community; we lost a 25 years old youth, while he was crossing the river
“Everyone was happy when it rains like some years back, but nowadays it is scary when it rains, especially it is scary during night time “LWF Security head at kakuma 1 told KANERE.
The heavy rainfall has impacted the refugee communities in a negative way, as shelters were damaged, and environment became unsafe from flooding hazards.
Scientifically, it has been proven that wearing protective gear saves lives and that social distancing keeps the pandemic at bay. However, the residents of Kakuma and Kalobeyei have been reluctant to wear masks and keep their distance despite a surge in Covid-19 infections.
The refugee community recorded the first positive case of Covid-19 on May 29, 2020. As of mid- October 2020, 52 positive cases were identified within the refugee community, and the numbers are increasing.
Despite aggressive information campaigns by agencies, using face masks and maintaining social distancing is rare. This is especially harmful in crowded areas, such as the following: • The Somali market in Kakuma One • the Ethiopian market, also in Kakuma One, • the Lizahua market, • the market near the reception center at Kakuma 3, • the new settlement markets at village 1 and village 3, and • all water points as well as food distribution centers both.
Recently, a national newspaper reported that Turkana is one of four counties named as virus hotspots, creating a possibility for another lock down. The refugee camp has been in partial lock down since April 29 in order to keep the refugee community safe.
Some agencies and community-based organizations installed a temporary hand washing water tank in few communities at common places during May, June and July as a covid-19 emergency response. The aim was to provide a hand washing service for the members of the community and for any passersby.
Although the number of affected individuals is increasing, many camp residents are reluctant to wear masks and maintain social distance for different reasons. Regardless of their intentions, this might eventually increase the transmissions within the community.
“Wearing a mask while riding really gives me a feeling like I am detained in a Kakuma police station, imagine wearing a mask with helmet in this temperature,” said Alfered, a Burundian motorbike rider. As per the Kenyan Public Health Act, both riders and passengers are required to wear face masks and anyone guilty of not following the rules will have their motorbike detained and /or shall be liable for a fine not exceeding Ksh 20,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 6 months.
Sami, an MPESA service provider, believes that Covid-19 is almost over and said “Wearing masks is distressing in this temperature.”
However, organizations like UNHCR and partners have re-arranged their work areas to enforce social distancing and make face masks mandatory during visitations.
Eva, a Burundian motorbike driver, notes that he has seen a lot of people at Kakuma 3 burial ground. While traveling to camp 4, he said “I am encountering a lot of people attending funeral ceremonies at Kakuma 3, Block 12. Almost on a daily basis.” The area is home to a diverse community, but is dominated by people from South Sudan and members from the Great Lakes community.
Aketch Akong, a South Sudanese faith leader, believes that Covid-19 cannot survive in the body of junub, an Arabic word which means people with dark skin color. According to Akong , he is confident that there is no one from South Sudan who has been infected by the virus.
The fact that some restrictions have been relaxed due to the economic recession might have created a sense of apathy in regards to the necessary precautions in.
Marta, a chairlady in Zone 2, camp 1, believes that imposing mandatory face masks in public places, as well as curfews and lockdowns is a good strategy to keep people safe. She is happy about the recent police patrol within her community. As per the rules of the Public Health Act (cap.242 laws of Kenya), wearing face masks is mandatory in public places for all persons in the country.
“While the world prepares to face the second wave of Covid-19, Kakuma refugees are in a giant sleep mood and they need to be alerted. But I don’t know how,” Said Abdi, one of KANERE’s offline broadcasters.
UNHCR and partners have also delivered cautionary messages about the pandemic, in multiple languages through text messaging platforms . A message circulated in July 2020 read: “With the ease of lockdown, does this mean that COVID-19 is over? No.COVID-19 is still here with us until a vaccination or medication to manage the virus is found.”
The offices of GIZ-CPS and Film Aid have been addressing the deadly pandemic using an offline broadcasting strategy to reach targeted audiences.
The GIZ–Civil Peace Service office, KCOMNET, and KANERE media have been alerting the community by using loudspeaker mounted cars. However, most refugees had stopped using masks and keeping social distance until the Kenya police intervened in Kakuma 1 area on 26th of October.
“Refugees in camps are remembering their masks when they are see Police vehicles,“ said Sabir, a leader in Kakuma 1.
Since the recent police operations, masks have been worn, but people are still complacent about maintaining proper mask hygiene. Most masks are produced here in the camp with cloth materials and need constant hygiene checkups by the users.
Samson, an incentive health officer at the International Rescue Committee, said that “delivering reports including recovery and death rates within the camps might change public attitudes.” According to him, most people are reluctant because they have not known or heard of anyone who died or was sick due to the pandemic in their community.
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.
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.