Kenya hosts nearly half a million refugees and asylum seekers who are fully dependent on humanitarian assistance for their basic needs. Desert locusts, which have been ravaging the Horn of Africa since late 2019, spread across Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, and are now in 18 out of 47 counties in Kenya, mostly the arid and semi-arid areas. Kenya is also one of the countries affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The European Union continues its long-standing assistance to refugees in Kenya and responding to disaster-related emergencies in the country.
The refugees and asylum seekers hosted in Kenya are mainly from Somalia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kenya has an encampment policy, meaning that refugees are mainly confined to camps and are almost entirely dependent on aid.
Desert locusts, already in 18 counties, pose a great threat to agriculture and pastoral livelihoods. Due to unprecedented rains since October 2019, the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has warned that more locusts are breeding in favourable climatic conditions which could lead to further swarm outbreaks.
Kenya registered its first case of the coronavirus in March 2020. The prevention and containment measures can have an impact on food security and the economy, largely dependent on small businesses and traders.
Since October 2019, many parts of Kenya have experienced heavy rains, triggering floods and mudslides across several parts of the country. The long rain season (March to June) has produced unprecedented heavy downpours that resulted in landslides and flash floods, mainly in the western part of the country, where more than 230 people lost their lives, more than 160,000 had to leave their homes, and critical infrastructure was destroyed.
Over the years, the European Union (EU) has maintained its humanitarian support for refugee operations in Kenya. It has also focused on building the resilience of communities in the arid northern part of Kenya and the capacity of authorities to prepare for emergencies. Since 2012, the EU has provided more than €190 million in humanitarian aid in Kenya.
In 2020, the EU is supporting humanitarian action in Kenya with €15.5 million in funding to assist refugees and respond to food security emergencies in the country. €4 million out of this funding is supporting people in need most affected by the food shortages and loss of livelihoods caused by locust swarms. In February, to respond to the locust invasion in eastern Africa, including in Kenya, the EU allocated €11 million in funding to the FAO to help fighting against the spread of the insects. Following the recent torrential rains that caused devastating floods and landslides across the region, the EU mobilised €500,000 in emergency assistance to respond to immediate needs in Kenya.
Given the new challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, EU-funded humanitarian projects in Kenya are adopting measures and adapting exiting ones within their projects to help beneficiaries and staff keep safe, while continuing to provide life-saving assistance to support vulnerable communities. Actions already focusing on the health sector will continue providing access to health care and epidemics control and prevention among refugees and host communities. These actions are complementing ongoing efforts by the Ministry of Health of Kenya. In addition, the EU is supporting the World Health Organization (WHO) in Ethiopia in early detection and response measures to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps, the EU continues to support the provision of basic life-saving aid such as food assistance, healthcare, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), protection, and education.
As a partial replacement to distributing in-kind food rations, the EU funds electronic food vouchers called ‘Bamba Chakula’ (‘Get your food’ in Swahili) and cash transfers. Both modalities give refugees more options as households can in this way choose which food to buy, thus diversifying their diet while helping the local economy grow.
EU support helps health facilities offering comprehensive services, including in-patient wards that cater to both refugee and host communities. Clean water, sanitation facilities and hygiene promotion are also given priority as they prevent illnesses. Efforts are made to provide care for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and work with communities in the camps to prevent such violence from being perpetrated in the first place.
In addition, the EU contributes to the education of refugees and young people by offering learning opportunities for more than 135,000 pupils enrolled in schools in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps. A special accelerated learning programme has been devised for young people and adults whose education has been interrupted by conflict. This programme enables students to catch up and complete the primary school curriculum in just 3 years.