Fighting in South Sudan forces tens of thousands to refugee camps

Report
from Danish Refugee Council
Published on 23 Aug 2016

New, violent fighting in South Sudan has caused around 90,000 people to flee to the neighbouring countries. Most have arrived in Uganda, but also Kakuma Camp in Northern Kenya is receiving hundreds of people every week. Therefore people are moving in to the newest part of Kakuma, the settlement Kalobeyei before construction has even finished.

Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya was built for 90,000 people. But right now it houses around up to 185,000 according to NGO's working in the camp, such as the Danish Refugee Council (DRC). Wars and conflicts in Kenya's neighboring countries, in particular South Sudan, has caused Kakuma to grow and grow since it was established in 1991. After new fighting broke out in South Sudan early in July, refugees are once more arriving by the hundreds every week in Kakuma in search of security and a life without a constant fear of loosing it.

The newest part of Kakuma is called Kalobeyei settlement, which is a 15 minutes drive from the other four parts of the camp. On desert plains, houses build by wooden poles, tin roofs and plastic sheeting stands side by side in long rows. As soon as a house is constructed, a new family moves in. On this particular day in late August, around 2,000 people are waiting for a house to move into.

One of those, who have recently been awarded a house, is 32 year old Grace Jokundo. She is relieved to have arrived in Kenya:

"Every day in South Sudan was filled with war. Here there is peace. I would very much like to stay here," she says.

Grace Jokundo came to Kakuma with her two children, but is now also taking care of three other children aged 10 to 11, whom she found at the reception center. They came to Kenya by themselves after their parents were killed in the fighting in South Sudan.

Almost all refugees here are vulnerable

83 percent of those, who arrive in Kakuma are women and children, who are especially vulnerable in refugee camps, since many of these are either unacompanied children or single mothers. In Kalobeyei settlement, DRC partners with UNHCR and will provide protection for vulnerable refugees and women and children who has suffered from sexually gender based violence (SGBV).

"This is a very sensitive subject in all cultures and off course also for the South Sudanese and there is a need for a safe space where the victims of sexual violence can receive assistance," says Georgia McPeak, who is the Area Manager for Danish Refugee Council in Kakuma.

Danish Refugee Council is right now establishing an office in Kalobeyei. Here refugees will be able to receive private assistance and counseling. The counselors will help the victims and direct them to the hospital if needed, help them connect to the police, if attacks have taken place in the settlement, or help them relocate, if they need to get away from the settlement.

"Victims of sexual abuse risk stigmatization from other refugees and our counsellors can help them relocate to a safe house, if they risk further abuse," Georgia McPeak says.

Another important focus areas is livelihood assistance, so refugees can become self reliant and become independent from the vouchers with a small amount of funds given to refugees each month. The livelihood assistance is happening through a wide variety of activities including scholarships, Savings and Loan Groups, training courses in numeracy and literacy, business management training and accounting.