Kenya + 2 more

The cost of living: an analysis of the time and money spent by refugees accessing services in Nairobi

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Martin Anderson


The primary goal of providing assistance to refugees is to stabilize their lives, but a critical component of stability – livelihoods – is indirectly and inadvertently undermined by a service delivery system that requires refugees to spend an excessive amount of time and money getting to the offered assistance, particularly in urban settings. Refugees are left with less time to seek employment or earn an informal income, and a small but noticeable percentage of the money they do manage to earn must be spent to access services. For refugees caught in this cycle, rather than working to achieve their independence, they are working just to maintain their dependence.

UNHCR and NGOs often think of refugees only in terms of outputs, regardless of the inputs refugees must make to obtain the help being given. It is a protection model that conceives of refugees as passive recipients rather than active participants in the assistance transaction. Refugees are rarely “involved in any meaningful way in discussions about the best use of resources, or about effective modes of assistance delivery.”