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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Kenya


UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Kenya

1 December 1998

Basic Facts

What we do

Care for more than 174,000 refugees in Kenya's camps and an additional 12,000 Convention/Government-recognized refugees who reside in Nairobi and other urban areas; and assist in the voluntary repatriation of refugees to Somalia, Ethiopia and other countries.

Who we help

More than 125,000 persons, most from southern Somalia, living in the Dadaab camps; some 43,000 Sudanese, mainly residing in Kakuma camp; and up to 15,000 asylum-seekers from countries in the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa who require careful consideration of their asylum claims.

Our requirements

US$ 22,213,788

Our offices

Nairobi, Dadaab, Kakuma.

Our partners

Ministry of Home Affairs; National Refugee Secretariat, Care (Kenya), Médecins Sans Frontières-Belgium (MSF-B), Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS). National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), Africa Refugee Education Programme Foundation (AREP), Refugee Studies Programme of Moi University.


Kenya has sheltered refugees from across the region since 1961, before it won independence. For some 20 years, UNHCR maintained a small office in Nairobi that worked closely with the Government to protect and assist some 20,000 registered refugees. At the height of the civil wars in Ethiopia and Somalia in 1991 and 1992, thousands of wounded and famished refugees arrived daily in Kenya's remote border regions. Fighting in neighbouring Sudan prompted the flight of thousands more to Kenya, mostly boys escaping the conflict and/or forced military service. By 1992, UNHCR had established 17 refugee camps in Kenya to care for a refugee population of 420,000.

Between 1993 and 1998, repatriation operations helped more than 265,000 refugees return to their homelands, while some 32,000 others were resettled to third countries. The departures, combined with camp closures, enabled UNHCR to consolidate Kenya's refugees from the disparate 17 sites into four camps.


While providing care and maintenance, UNHCR also initiates programmes to meet refugees' specific needs, stressing education and skills development/vocational training to foster self-reliance once the refugees return to their countries of origin. Voluntary repatriation remains the preferred durable solution for the refugees, though third-country resettlement is also an option for some.

Those in Need of Protection and Assistance

Most of the refugees sheltered in the Dadaab camps are women and girls; most of those in Kakuma camp are men and boys. Kakuma's unusual population profile presents special challenges. Having fled war-torn Sudan to avoid forced conscription or the devastating effects of the war, the boys and young men live in a kind of limbo in the camp. They are largely well-educated, but unable to go through the rites of adulthood. Vocational training and education programmes targeting this group have been successful in reaching large numbers, but the monotony of refugee life has resulted in occasional outbreaks of violence. UNHCR addresses these pressures in its Peace Education initiative.

Protection and Solutions

UNHCR has been working closely with the Government to re-establish the eligibility committee; this effort has now succeeded. The absence of a national refugee law has not prevented Kenya from welcoming large numbers of asylum- seekers and facilitating UNHCR's work in aid of refugees. But the agency will continue to sensitize the relevant Government department to promote passage of national legislation which will give a structure to the country's long-standing support for UNHCR's work and incorporate refugee law and principles consistent with the 1951 Convention, 1967 Protocol and the 1969 OAU Convention, to which Kenya has acceded.

Asylum-seekers in urban areas have been subject to yearly round-ups, and UNHCR works to ensure that this group is treated properly. The fact that more than 15,000 asylum-seekers have presented themselves to UNHCR is of concern to both the Office and the Government, and it is hoped that the screening project for Rwandan and Burundi refugees established in mid-1998 and the Government's formal creation of an eligibility committee should alleviate this problem.

UNHCR will work with the Government to ensure that a fair eligibility procedure is established and ensure that sufficient human and material resources are available to carry out the necessary tasks. Refugee law training programmes are also underway targeting Government officials and other members of the civil society. There are primarily two solutions for Kenya's refugee population: repatriation and resettlement. Since 1993, more than 265,000 refugees have returned home and more than 32,000 have been resettled. In 1999, UNHCR plans to repatriate 10,000 Somalis and more than 2,300 other refugees. Significant numbers of refugees, for whom resettlement outside Kenya is the most appropriate solution, such as victims of torture, women-at-risk and individuals in need of urgent protection, will be given the opportunity to build new lives in third countries.

Women and Children

Community-development activities revolve around women's groups and promote self-reliance. Women have been encouraged to participate in all aspects of programme planning and maintenance. People-Oriented Planning (POP) training was conducted in both Dadaab and Kakuma camps to ensure that the needs of women and children are addressed.

UNHCR will reinforce Family Life Education Centres that provide projects in functional literacy, pre-school programmes and income-generating activities. More than 5,000 refugee women have benefited from income-generating activities in tailoring, basket-making, tie-dyeing and soap-making. More loans will be offered through a community revolving fund scheme, established a few years ago, to assist in the purchase of tailoring and basketry materials.

Anti-rape committees, formed in all camps to help monitor rape and sexual-assault cases, help build awareness of the issue of sexual violence among the community and reduce stigmatization of victims. Community social workers and medical staff will continue to provide emergency assistance, counselling and referral services to rape victims in all camps.

UNHCR offers special assistance to Kenyan police to boost their capacity to combat crimes around the camps. The agency will also support an initiative for firewood collection that ensures the security of women and children and the local environment. An innovative Peace Education Programme, designed to improve the welfare of women, is also under way.

Tracing activities will be systematized through closer cooperation with ICRC and Branch Offices in countries of origin. UNHCR will encourage greater cooperation with local foster-care agencies when solutions within the refugee community cannot be found.


The Government is extremely sensitive about the presence of large refugee camps in the border regions. Environmental fragility in the semi-arid desert regions has been exacerbated by the presence of large numbers of refugees and the local traders and pastoralists who congregate near the camps to trade. The collection of firewood had resulted in deforestation around Kenya's four refugee camps. UNHCR works with the Government, local communities and implementing partners to protect the environment. The agency is developing a broad-based environment programme covering energy management, reforestation, water conservation, environmental education and awareness-raising. The proposed programme will be implemented over four years. UNHCR cooperates closely with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) in the Rational Energy Supply Conservation Utilization Education (RESCUE) programme. Under this programme, reforestation campaigns have been launched in Dadaab and will be started in Kakuma, and energy-efficient stoves are distributed among the refugees.

Other Needs

Regular replacement of facilities and shelters in the refugee camps is required. Water systems in Kakuma camp, straining to accommodate refugees relocated from the coastal camps, must be expanded; that expansion is included in the 1999 plan of action. Kakuma is located on a low-lying peninsula between two rivers which frequently flood and wash away sections of the camp, water and road infrastructure. Regular repair work is therefore required at the camp and, in the long-term, sections of the camp may have to be relocated.

Lessons Learned

The Government-designated sites for refugee camps in semi-arid desert regions are frequently subject to environmental disasters. The 1997-1998 floods caused by El Nino washed away road links to Dadaab. For more than four months, refugees had to rely on air deliveries of food, medicines and fuel for the vehicules and water pumping systems.

The benefits of refugee self-management have been apparent in Kenya. Women and girls, in particular, have a greater say in the camps' activities and services. Structures to encourage similar refugee participation should be implemented at an early stage in future refugee crises in order to avoid long-term dependency.


Continued war in Somalia and the Sudan and the threat of war in Ethiopia may hamper repatriation operations and force others to flee to Kenya. New arrivals from the Sudan are recorded regularly, and the hostilities that erupted between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1998 resulted in new arrivals from that region, as well. The use of scarce natural resources can be a source of competition and potential conflict between local communities and refugees.

Banditry is also a serious problem, particularly in the north-east, where refugee women and girls too frequently become victims of rape. The proximity of the refugee camps to countries engaged in civil strife has enabled bandits and other criminal elements to acquire weapons which are used against refugees and local Kenyans alike.


The education, vocational training, environmental awareness and Peace Education programmes conducted in Kenya are among the most well-established in UNHCR, and are used as models, both within the agency and in other organizations, to be adapted to other refugee situations.

Budget US$

ActivitiesGeneral ProgrammesSpecial Programmes
Domestic Needs/Household Support763,18966,525
Water Supply930,091204,000
Shelter/Other Infrastructures480,28941,401
Community Services454,33360,840
Crop Production260,000
Livestock/Animal Husbandry160,000
Legal Assistance/Protection132,72012,667
Agency Operational Support2,636,36538,992
Programme Delivery Costs*4,690,100977,935
Administrative Support1,760,300226,853
Total GP + SP22,213,788

* Includes costs for protection, monitoring and coordination.