European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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At the height of the 2011 Horn of Africa crisis, Dadaab received a huge influx of refugees mainly from Somalia. Currently, the camps are the largest refugee camps in the world. © European Union/ECHO/Daniel Dickinson

What are the needs?

23 out of 47 counties have been hit by a drought that is also affecting other countries in the Horn of Africa region, mainly Somalia and Ethiopia. Staple food prices are very high due to below average crop production. Some of the worst-affected communities live along the Mandera triangle, where the borders of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia meet; a region that witnessed outbreaks of chikungunya, dengue fever, cholera and measles in 2016.

The situation is compounded by a deteriorating security situation in northern Kenya. Multiple attacks have made it difficult for the population to access basic services. The safety of health and education staff is at risk and humanitarian organisations are having difficulty reaching the areas with the highest needs. 

Kenya hosts close to 500 000 refugees, mainly from South Sudan, Somalia and the Great Lakes region. They stay in urban centres and in camps in Garissa and Turkana counties. Over 90 000 refugees have arrived in Kakuma and Kalobeyei camp since conflict broke out in South Sudan in 2013, bringing the camp’s population to over 170 000 when initially designed for 125 000 people.

In 2013, the governments of Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR agreed to start the repatriation of refugees to Somalia. By June 2017, over 67 000 people had been assisted to voluntarily return to Somalia. However, a pre-famine alert has been issued for Somalia and conditions are not conducive for mass returns. While Kenya maintains its intention to close Dadaab camp and repatriate the refugees to Somalia, a High Court in Nairobi declared the government’s directive unconstitutional and in violation of Kenya’s obligations to refugees’ rights under the UN Conventions.

How are we helping?

Over the years, the European Union has maintained its humanitarian support for refugee operations in Kenya, while at the same time focusing on building the resilience of communities in the arid North and the capacity of authorities to prepare for and respond to emergencies. In 2017, due to the drought, the EU has responded through an emergency response through cash transfers and support to critical nutrition pipelines.

So far in 2017, the EU has disbursed a total of €23.8 million in humanitarian aid to provide assistance to the hundreds of thousands of refugees and respond to the ongoing drought in Kenya, mostly through cash transfers for food and water.

In Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps, the Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department continues to support basic life-saving services such as health care, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, protection as well as education.

The EU also funds cash transfers and the roll-out of electronic food vouchers which replace part of the refugees’ in-kind food rations. Concerted efforts are made to make the environment in the camps safer for children and women through community-based protection interventions.

In recent years, the EU has supported partners to help communities prepare for and respond to disasters, to contain a cholera epidemic, and treat children under five for malnutrition in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid regions. Given the remoteness and volatility of the areas where the refugee camps and other aid programmes are run, the EU operates ECHO Flight. This humanitarian air service is available for the EU's humanitarian partner organisations at no cost.

The EU is strengthening coordination between its humanitarian and development departments, aiming for more sustainable solutions to the protracted refugee situation and other recurring crises. EU development programmes now involve support to refugee sites where the self-reliance of refugees and the co-existence with local communities are being promoted. Programmes also focus on strengthening the resilience of drought affected populations in the longer term.

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