Home Projects Dadaab Camps, Garissa District, Northeast Kenya



Currently Kenya has the largest concentration of refugees in the world in one of its two major refugee camp locations.  FCs project focuses on one of these areas, more specifically the three camps located near the city of Dadaab, Ifo, Hagadera and Dagahaley. The Dadaab refugee camps were originally established in 1991, designed to house 90,000 refugees for an intermittent amount of time till the conflict of their home country had subsided. Unfortunately, the conflicts originally causing the refugee movements have not subsided and now the Dadaab camps are home to over 262,181 persons as of 15 February 2010.


  • 62,000 new arrivals in 2008
  • 55,000 arrivals in 2009
  • Increase continuing at some nearly 7,000 per month in 2010.


Most are from the Lower/Middle Juba regions and also Mogadishu. Total of nearly 300,000 refugees in 3 Dadaab camps, nearly 4 times of normal capacity (90,000 persons).



Refugee Camps


Refugee camps in there strictest senses are expensive short term solutions, the problem begins when the refugee camp becomes a long term plan. If the camps were kept temporary as the model is built to accommodate, then the financing of the camp and its necessities is not a problem, because donors will allot large amounts of money to crisis situations in there beginnings. The idea of running a camp long-term is problematic because the funds needed to maintain the facilities will increase as the populations increases while the crisis interest of the donors will decrease over time, and less money will be given for the specific cause.


With the hold on any additional building coupled with the constant influx of new refugees the housing facilities are becoming extremely congested. With no new plots new refugees are being forced to move in with their relatives or friends. Housing is not the only problem; all infrastructure needs on the camp are heavily over stretched. The housing shelters do not have private bathrooms, rather all camp occupants must use public facilities and there is a need for 40,000 additional latrines. Shortages of water create disputes between the refugees and an unnatural competition for the limited resource. Until additional boreholes for water can be sunk, not currently a possibility with the governments’ stand on land use, each refugee receives less than 12.3 liters of water per day; while the average person in such a situation should be receiving 20 liters a day. And that number corresponds to a short term refugee situation, a protracted situation the one we are focusing on can raise the individual need to double or triple that depending on the needs.


Dim lights Embed Embed this video on your site


Local Resources


In 2009 particularly, it has been a contentious year between the refugees in the camps and the local Kenyan population.  Kenya experienced one of the worst droughts in decades; leaving the country with millions more who are in desperate need of emergency food aid. In the camps in particular the occupants have been left with a serious lack of water and wood, the wood being key in fires for cooking and construction. This has sparked additional contention between the locals and refugees and has put refugee females collecting wood outside the camps at risk of rape. And to complicate matters more, when the rains did come, they were sporadic and heavy, creating floods that devastated houses and food stores, and caused disease outbreak such as cholera.



The issue stands that large refugee camps can deplete local resources, especially if the refugee camp(s) are there for an extended amount of time like the Dadaab camps. Because refugee camps are designed for short term purposes, the financial structures of these projects can be steep and sustaining them on long term basis can become an intense money raising task. This coupled with the refugees depleting the local resources because of lack of supplies can cause negative situations to build in the localities.


UNHCR has taken steps to mollify the negative feelings of the host populations by providing a water borehole here and a water tank there outside the camps where the refugees may have depleted natural resources. Unfortunately, the UNHCR has a limited budget and the refugees are its main responsibility while the host population needs should be dealt with by the host government or national focused agencies.


Because of this intense and constant influx of refugees The Kenyan government closed its border with Somalia in January 2007. Even with these steps taken an additional 100,000 refugees have crossed the border in 2008 and 2009, coming mostly from the conflict ravaged areas of Mogadishu and Lower Juba.  “Unfortunately camps are a limiting solution for refugees in protracted refugee situations, who are now spending an average of 17 years in these long-term circumstances.”  With the Kenyan government action of closing there border they have for all intensive purposes “washed there hands of the issue”, claiming they are simply a transit country, and refuse to give the refugees any legal recognition. Because of this the UN agency autonomously states the refuges status and upholds it. This creates a legal discrepancy, under these terms the refugees have no legal rights in Kenya and hold no official status under Kenyan law. The UNs statuses are simply recommendations to the Kenyan government it can choose to uphold or ignore at its own convenience.


For all intensive purposes Kenya has kept these refugee camps hidden in the background, with most residents of the country, especially those of the metropolises like Nairobi to have little connection if any to these cities of degradation. The local population on the other hand has distinctive feelings of neglect and unwarranted poverty by influence from the camps nearby. These issues are compounded by the arid and extremely sensitive pastoral habitat.


The protraction of these refugee camps has created a very unhealthy governmental dependency of Kenya on the aid organizations, including the UN and USA etc. The ministry of health has in recent years returned 35 to 40 percent of its annual budget unspent, and there is a sense in certain areas, especially in ARV provision (currently 98 percent dependent on donors), that the government sees donor support as a continuing given. KEMSA, the Kenyan institution for medical supply has been stated as deeply The UNHCR and state governments often view refugees as a means to an end. Because the government or organization supports the refugees they will receive funding, international attention and the legitimacy to run humanitarian programs in the settlements or camps.  Creating the ends of the government or organization becomes the object of protection and aid, in this instance the care maker of several hundred thousand people and the manager of tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.

Only 48% of children in camps are enrolled in schools. Classes are overcrowded (students per class ratio 1:103; standard is 1:40)

The camps populations tend to be very young:


  • The Dagahaley camp population consists of 36,614 individuals. 55% of the population is under 18 years of age.
  • The Hagadera camp population consists of 54,418 individuals Children under 18 are just fewer than 50%.
  • The Ifo camp population consists of 53,955 individuals The majority of the population is under 18.


Health Facilities


On average, there is one health facility for every 12,500 refugees. Primary health care for the three camps is offered through a network of 21 health posts, these locations also cover the treatments of minor ailments. These 21 facilities are the basis of health care for the 250,000 plus residents of the refugee camps. The staff is comprised of two groups, the majority being Somali refugee volunteers who are supported by just a couple professional technicians provided by the government of Kenya. Unfortunately, there is a very high turnover level of the government supplied workers. The health facilities being few and far between as well as old and dilapidated create barriers with the refugees for accessing certain help and procedures. A very poignant one is accessing care for STI (sexually transmitted infection) services. There are fears that the outdated structures and crowded areas will impinge on confidentiality, risking possible stigmatization from family and/or community members. Additionally, the principle of modesty arises of female clients with male health technicians.



Physiological Aspects


Mental stability is a very important factor to consider when discussing the details we have covered already in reference to the refugee living situations and lifestyles. The environment of the camps has lead to the strong development of some syndromes studied across the camps populations.


  • Dependency syndrome: Camp staff, provided through the different aid organizations active there noticed the regular formation of an unhealthy dependency by the refugees on them. This became very noticeable in with the offering of counseling; the refugees did seem to fully understand the ideas of appointment times, whether showing up on time or leaving after the set time. There were also discrepancies with the concept of the sessions ending.
  • Resettlement syndrome(commonly referred to in these camps as Buufis):  This syndrome consists of constant and inappropriate preoccupation by the idea of being resettled to a new country, mainly a western, rich country, or where other relatives had gone to. It is common for someone in a negative situation to dream of a better situation, as would be the normal feelings of any refugees. The syndrome becomes a problem when this feeling turns into an obsessive longing that can start to disrupt their everyday lifestyle. Refugees who experience this syndrome are observed by their peers as acting like addicts, carry an extreme obsession that disrupts there life and everyday tasks.


Classical Solutions


Resettlement : The process of resettlement from the administrative side is a long and arduous process. Time frames through the office in Nairobi is possibly the slowest in the world for privately sponsored refugees. According to statistics published on the Citizen and Immigration Canada (CIC) website the wait time for processing is over 42 months, with “One in five refugee families now waits more than 52 months.”





  • 0 months       November 2007: private sponsorship application is submitted.
  • 6 months       May 2008: sponsored refugee’s application is received at Nairobi visa office.
  • 14 months     January 2009: Nairobi visa office sends refugee a letter stating: “You can expect to hear from us in the next 36 months. We will not reply to any correspondence or case enquiries during this period.”
  • 50 months    January 2012: Refugee should have heard from the visa office. Several more months at least are required for interview, decision, medical and security checks


An additional variable to take into consideration is that the CIC website only lists the process time from when a completed application has been submitted by a refugee to the respective visa post. Before this step can happen the sponsorship undertaking must be processed from the Canadian office and sent out to the local visa office. This window of time, between when the sponsorships summation and the visa posts receivership of the refugees application, usually stretches from six months up to a year.


From the refugees perspective along with classical procedures resettlement to the Western Hemisphere is the only plausible road to secure and happy life. The Kenyan government for the last 19 years had no allowed any integration into Kenyan society. The situation in Somalia has not improved and seems to be extending on indefinitely. Hence the prospect of resettlement elsewhere seems the only reality. Even this though often becomes a dream because of the small amount of refugees by ratio that are relocated, and the painfully long process they go through for such resettlement.


Returning to the Country of Origin


Returning to Somalia is currently not an option, which focuses the refugees on the only plausible option being resettlement. This can simply be ascertained form the constant influx of new refugees on a monthly basis. Somalia currently is experiencing heavy armed conflict in its South and Central regions, leading to a country wide feeling of general insecurity. This has lead to deceases humanitarian space as well as large scale population displacement, which brings us back to the camps. Additionally, the country is experiencing an economic crisis through a devalued currency, high food prices and a drop in the levels of remittance received.


Geographic Area



Dadaab is located in the North East Province of Kenya, bordering Somalia and Ethiopia. The provincial capital is Garissa. The province and camps both share a majority population of Somalis.

The geographic area is semi arid, an almost desert like habitat, which habituates long periods of drought, and occasional flooding during the rainy seasons. Because of the flooding, roads ways and bridges can be inaccessible for parts of the year causing the area to be isolative with very limited exposure to outside influence.




Interested Parties can contact Nathaniel Persky via e-mail for more information: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Powered by Joomla!. Designed by: web hosting traffic whois protection Valid XHTML and CSS.

Feedback Form
Website Feedback