by Lennart Hernander, LWF Representative, Kenya/Djibouti Program
Influx of Refugees – new arrivals
Officially there are now 519.000 refugees in Kenya. The latest available official figure for Dadaab is 388.000, for Kakuma the figure is 79.000 and for refugees living in Nairobi 51.000 (Note: LWF works in Dadaab with camp management in all three camps and is one of the main agencies in the Kakuma camp. Also note that not all of refugees are Somalis and not all are refugees due to drought, there are also political refugees, especially in Kakuma. Some refugees have lived in Kenya for a long time, in Dadaab we have more than 8,000 children born by mothers who were themselves born in the camps).
Statistics – Some days during the past week we saw up to 1,800 refugees received in a day. However we want to warn a little bit on the numbers given by various sources, they are a bit like “Chinese whispers” and tend to grow every time they are quoted. The average number of refugees arriving per day that we can verify over a period of time (from 6th June to 6th July) is just below 1,300. We do, however, fear that the numbers will grow in the near future, as an estimated 3,000 Somalis are fleeing every day, walking towards the Ethiopian and Kenyan borders. At the same time, UNICEF has made a first relief operation inside an Al Shabaab controlled area of Somalia. Ms. Chorlton, the UNICEF representative for Somalia, said Al-Shabab had assured the agency it could operate without undue interference. UNICEF paid no fees to Al-Shabab, and UNICEF has stated that “the success of the mission means that it will be repeated in the near future”. If more relief aid can be delivered inside Somalia, it could reduce the pressure on Kenya and Ethiopia. At the same time, security sources in Kenya and within UN warns that kidnappings have been a strategy used by Al-Shabaab in the past and could happen again.
Security – There are also reports (from UNDSS) about a worsening security situation in Mandera (northern Kenya) with some Al Shabaab presence on the Kenyan side of the border and threats of kidnappings. There are ongoing battles between Al Shabaab militia and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia rather close to the Kenyan border, and more reports come of both Al Shabaab fighters and TFG soldiers deserting and crossing the borders. An increase in “common banditry” in Kenya, close the Somali border has been blamed on this. It is not unlikely that deserted fighters and soldiers will arrive in Dadaab as refugees.
Registration – The registration at Dadaab (the official registration, done by the Department for Refugee Affairs, Government of Kenya) can manage about 700 refugees / day at the moment which means the back log increases every day. However, refugees do receive food and other services before registration, though there are challenges with this.
IFO 2 Camp –We still have conflicting information on the opening of Ifo 2. We hope it will open the coming week, it has been agreed that it will be a tented camp, with no permanent structures (for now). LWF already has an office and staff accommodation in the Ifo 2 camp, and we will be operational immediately as the camp opens.
Food – Food distribution (by WFP) is at the moment working well and the so called “food pipeline” works well. WFP has, however, reported that in order to cover the estimated need for food aid from now until the next expected harvest, they will need an additional $ 17 million. Upon arrival, before accessing the rations from WFP, we see many cases of “old” refugees sharing their food rations with “new” refugees. The rations are not big, but they still share what they have.
Water – There are no immediate concerns about water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in the Dadaab camps, and no immediate concern for waterborne diseases. All three camps, as well as Ifo 2, are well provided for. For the newly arrived refugees, that have settled on the so called camp outskirts (which actually means outside of the camps) WASH remain a challenge. Water is available, but the distances to existing water points are growing, as more and more people arrive and settle further and further away. Some refugees now have up to three kilometers to the nearest water point. LWF is assisting in filling in some of this gap by a water truck (a 7,000 liter “bowser”) that we hired last week. It is being used to truck water both to refugees and to host community. The water situation in the host community is also difficult, but there is still water and sanitation is working.
Protection – Protection is an increasing problem – with the overcrowded camps and tens of thousands of refugees settling outside the camps protection for those in need is challenging. Cases of sexual and gender based violence have been reported to be increasing. LWF works with the refugees in a “community policing” project, so called Camp Peace and Security Teams (CPSTs). These CPSTs are refugees themselves, they patrol in the camps, solve many domestic problems and manage most cases well. (Criminal offences are handled by the Kenyan police). To train new CPSTs is a priority, but in the stretched situation we have now it takes time to get these teams organized. Once people get settled in an organized manner, teams can be organized, trained and begin their work. It is also difficult to identify and isolate person who are need protection, and part of camp planning is to separate groups that may be in conflict with each other – on the unplanned outskirts of the camps, this is not possible.
Clothing – Clothes, shoes and sanitary wear for women are also problematic, many arriving refugees have very poor clothes and many are barefoot. Old refugees and host community members have made collections and it is humbling to see how those who have little share what they have with those who have nothing!
Main Challenges – The main challenges are still about the situation of refugees before they actually reach the camps. UNHCR is now planning to open a reception centre at the Somali border in the small border town of Liboi. The plan is that the Government of Kenya will screen arriving refugees (security screening) at the border and that there will be water and some food (Corn Soya Blend (CSB), high protein biscuits (BP5) and high energy biscuits (HEB). Possibly a small medical facility will be set up, for acute medical assistance and treatment, for a first medical screening and for treatment of malnutrition. UNHCR plans to provide transport for refugees from the reception center in Liboi to the camps in Dadaab (70 – 80 kilometers). When this starts, the pressure on the camps will also reduce.
Your Support – Thank you for all your support! I cannot mention everything that is going on, but I want to say that while we do see and recognize all the challenges, gaps and needs – we are very happy and proud to be able to serve. And what we manage to do is only possible through the support – financial, in kind, through your thoughts and prayers and in other ways – that you provide.
With kind regards