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Unit plan for ages 12-14 in Geography: Living Conditions in Refugee Camps in Africa

Teaching and training materials

Unit plan for ages 12-14 in Geography: Living Conditions in Refugee Camps in Africa

29 March 2007

Benaco camp.



  • To understand clearly the concept of population density
  • To apply that understanding to the case of Rwandan refugees in camps in Tanzania (1994-96)
  • To understand the implications of overcrowding for refugees' well-being
  • To understand the living circumstances of refugees in an African refugee camp


  • To practise skills of reading, interpretation and analysis of data contained in tables
  • To practise inferring conclusions from data presented


  • To appreciate the restrictions and pressures of African refugee life
  • To appreciate the contrasts between those hardships and the comparative well-being of the students' home town
  • To develop empathy and a sense of solidarity with African refugees
  • To reflect upon fundamental human rights - things to which all human beings are entitled by virtue of their common humanity, and not because any law guarantees them

LESSON 1: Refugee camps as large as cities

  • Population density in refugee camps - Case study of Rwandan camps in Tanzania
  • The impact of overcrowding on refugees' well-being
  • Comparison of population densities in African refugee camps and major cities of the world


Teacher quickly describes Rwandan refugee emergency of 1994.

Map work

Tanzania - Kagera region - Ngara area - camp locations - international borders


Read through the Activity Sheet together.

To convey the concept of population density, mark a 3m x 3m square on the floor in chalk. Ask more and more students to stand inside it. Calculate "population per square meter".


In pairs, students answer questions 1 & 2

Lateral thinking

Ask students differences between crowding in a refugee camp and crowding in a large modern city.


"Rwanda: causes and consequences of the refugee crisis", in UNHCR, The State of the World's Refugees: In Search of Solutions (Oxford, OUP, 1995), p. 32-33

Student map: Refugee Camps, Kagera Region, Tanzania, late 1996.

Student Activity Sheet 1: Population and Areas
of Rwandan Refugee Camps, Kagera Region, Tanzania, Late 1996

LESSONS 2 and 3: Maintaining a Refugee Camp


Case study of life in Hartisheik, a Somali refugee camp, Ethiopia

Comparison with life in the students' home town

  • Housing
  • Sources of daily food
  • Sources of drinking water
  • Sources of energy for cooking
  • Education and school facilities

Link to previous lesson and Introduction

Ask the students to think of some differences between life in a refugee camp and life in their home town.

Activity sheet

Students work in pairs, reading the short articles, discussing quietly together and filling in the boxes in the table.


Some students may remark on the injustice of their own comparative well-being and the harsh and poor conditions in which the Somali refugees at Hartisheik have to live.

Encourage that sort of comment; it can lead to a very fruitful discussion on human rights.


Food distribution in Ethiopia's Hartisheik camp, which hosted more than 250,000 Somali refugees in the late 1980s.

Student Activity Sheet 2: Comparison of an African Refugee Camp with your Home Town

Articles from Refugees magazine, no. 105, 1996: