Cash Based Intervention: Giving Refugees Choices in Shelter Construction
“Cash based intervention is a game changer that gives refugees an opportunity to make their own choices”
Anastasia Shukuru from DR Congo hold her niece stands in one of the houses constructed through Cash Based Intervention that gives refugees choice. ©UNHCR/Caroline Opile
As the warm sunrise peers out of the cloud, Regina Issa, a 35 year old mother of nine is busy in her temporary shelter preparing breakfast for her children, her youngest daughter clinging to her dress.
Outside her temporary house, the compound is a buzz of activity. Construction of her double room permanent shelter has just began in neighbourhood 17 in village 1 of Kalobeyei settlement. She is among the 1,000 refugees who by the end of the year will be owners of permanent houses through UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Cash-Based Intervention (CBI) for Permanent Shelter in Kalobeyei.
More than 350 houses have already been completed and construction of the remaining houses is ongoing.
I love the new style of shelter construction, one has a choice the kind of house you want
“I love the new style of shelter construction, one has a choice on the kind of house you want, materials to use and the mason who will construct the house,” Regina remarks. “The permanent shelter will give me security because thieves will not be able to break into my house easily.”
Regina Issa fled from Torit, South Sudan in 2016 with her children when war broke out in December 2015, conflict that claimed the life of her husband. She recounts how together with others they travelled by vehicles with stopovers to hide in the bush.
A few blocks from Regina’s house, 18 year old Stephen Mukundi is excavating the ground and laying out the concrete strip foundation for the house alongside other casual labourers he has hired to help in constructing his single roomed shelter. The construction has coincided with end of the school calendar. Stephen is a standard six pupil at Kalobeyei primary school, and also head of his household of two brothers. He fled Congo in 2016 and found a safe haven in Kalobeyei settlement.
“I also want to ensure there is good workmanship and a durable shelter.”
“I am helping in the construction of my own house to make some savings and buy sufficient materials for the kind of house we want,” Stephen says. “I also want to ensure there is good workmanship and a durable shelter.”
Stephen says that the mason that he selected to help him construct his shelter is from the local community. The laborers are a mixture of refugees and local community. He acknowledges that the shelter project has enabled refugees to socially integrate and co-exist peacefully; the host community are also benefiting economically from the project.
It costs between approximately $1440 to construct a single room and $2770 for a double room.
The entitlements and size of the house is determined by number of family members, with less than five members constructing a single room while more than five members construct double room.
In line with the objective of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) “improving refugee self-reliance” approach, UNHCR Kenya continues to engage with the private sector including Equity Bank in seeking innovation and inclusion for refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya. Equity Bank allows refugees to open bank accounts for all the heads of households who are issued with debit cards. Each head of household receives cash for construction of the permanent shelter in three instalments. Under the partnership with Equity Bank, refugees in Kalobeyei settlement are able to fulfil their permanent shelter needs in a more dignified manner.
Originally from Congo, Teresa Mutenga, a mother of four children arrived in Kenya in 2015, but settled in Kalobeyei in 2017. She was among the over 4,000 individuals that were relocated from Dadaab when the Government rolled out the voluntary repatriation for Somalis and relocation plan for non-Somalis living in Dadaab. She arrived in Kenya with her husband in 2015.
“Cash for shelter construction is better than being given a complete house, Teresa asserts. The savings we made enabled my husband to increase the stock of chicken that we rear. We sell a mature chicken at an average of 1300 Kenya shillings ($13).”
Dominic Lopeiyuk, is a mason and carpenter from the local community supervises construction in one of the shelters. ©UNHCR/Caroline Opile
Polycarp Mawek originally from South Sudan points to one of the houses he has helped construct. He is one of the trained and certified masons in Kalobeyei, a skill he learnt when he was a refugee in Uganda. ©UNHCR/Caroline Opile
Teresa Mutenga from Congo- "Cash based intervention for shelter construction is better than being given a complete house. With the savings, we have increased the number of chicken that we rear for sale." ©UNHCR/Caroline Opile
A boy plays with a ball outside one of the completed shelters in Kalobeyei. More than 350 houses have so far been constructed through the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Cash-Based Intervention (CBI). ©UNHCR/Caroline Opile
One of the neighborhoods in Kalobeyei where construction is ongoing. The compound members source for material together and have the power to negotiate for fair prices. ©UNHCR/Caroline Opile
Stephen Mukundi (right) is a standard six pupil at Kalobeyei primary school, and also head of his household poses with his brother. He fled Congo in 2016 and found a safe haven in Kalobeyei settlement ©UNHCR/Caroline Opile
Dominic Lopeiyuk, is a mason and carpenter. He learnt the skills in Don Bosco Vocational Training Centre that provides free technical skills training for refugees and host community. “This is my only source of livelihood,” 34 year old father of three remarks. He notes that “Cash based intervention has proved that refugees can construct their own shelter, all they need is guidance.”
Sukru Cansizoglu, the UNHCR Head of Sub Office in Kakuma says, “Kalobeyei is a theory of choice. The refugees are able to determine how they want to live, and how the house should look like – whether it’s a concrete, tiled or carpeted floor.” He concludes, “Cash based intervention is a game changer that gives refugees an opportunity to make their own choices.”