After consecutive failed rainy seasons, millions of drought-stricken Kenyans are in need of humanitarian assistance. Camps in Kenya are also host to some 425 000 refugees from different countries. The voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees has accelerated since Kenya’s proclaimed intention to close Dadaab camp, in spite of severe drought also affecting Somalia. The European Commission continues its long-standing assistance to the refugees in Kenya and supports the emergency drought response with cash programmes.
Drought in Kenya has affected 5.6 million people of which almost half are facing severe food insecurity. Food prices in the country remain very high due to below average rains and declining crop production. While food and water have become expensive commodities in Kenya’s arid north, pastoralists fetch low prices for their emaciated animals, making people’s daily lives very difficult. The October to December rainy season is expected to bring some relief with normal to high rainfall.
The situation is worsened by the climate of insecurity in northern Kenya where multiple attacks have obstructed the access of the population to basic services. Nationwide some 369 000 children are acutely malnourished, including 72 000 children who suffer from severe acute malnutrition and require life-saving treatment. The UN and the government of Kenya have launched two appeals for assistance in 2017 in the wake of the drought. Meanwhile, cholera outbreaks remains a major public health concern, with 5518 cases and 66 deaths from January to October 2017.
In the refugee camps, insufficient funding has let to food ration cuts except for new arrivals. Due to Kenya’s encampment policy, refugees are confined to camps and almost entirely dependent on aid. Some 34 000 refugees signed up for voluntary repatriation to Somalia in 2017 despite ongoing drought and disease outbreaks there.
Over the years, the European Union has maintained its humanitarian support for refugee operations in Kenya, while simultaneously focusing on building the resilience of communities in the arid north and the capacity of authorities to prepare for and react to emergencies.
So far in 2017, the EU has disbursed €23.8 million in humanitarian funds for food assistance, the drought response and basic services for refugees. In the counties worst affected by drought an emergency response totalling €11 million has been allocated for nutrition care and food assistance, mostly in the form of cash transfers. Supplementary feeding has been given to children under five as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women as a source of additional calories and micronutrients so as to prevent their health from deteriorating.
In Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps, the Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department continues to support basic life-saving services such as food assistance, health care, nutrition, water, hygiene and sanitation, protection and education. Funding also allows for the registration of newcomers and the overall running of the camps.
The EU funds electronic food vouchers which replace part of the refugees’ in-kind food rations. A programme dubbed Bamba Chakula (‘Get your food” in Swahili) has been rolled out through the popular M-PESA mobile money transfer system. This programme provides refugees with choice to choose which food to buy, thus diversifying their diet while contributing to the local economy.
EU support has helped to set up health facilities with comprehensive services including in-patient wards which cater for both the refugee and host population. The provision of clean water, sanitation facilities and hygiene promotion are a priority as they are vital and also greatly help in preventing illness and malnourishment in children. Efforts are made to ensure that the environment in the camps is safer, especially for children and women who make up 77% of the population, through community-based protection interventions.
The EU is contributing to the education of the refugees and youths by offering improved and alternative learning services in schools in Dadaab and Kakuma camps. An accelerated learning programme has been devised for youths and adults who have had to interrupt their education due to conflict.