2016 is set to be an important year for a programming shift in the Kenya refugee operation. Reorientation from traditional care and maintenance in the camps, towards truly solutions-oriented programming, is starting to take root in response to the new circumstances and unprecedented global challenges.
Against this backdrop, the third Kenya Comprehensive Refugee Programme (KCRP) document presents a consolidated view of all refugee-related programmes implemented in Kenya that will be delivered by all actors, including UNHCR, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), United Nations Agencies and the Government of Kenya in 2016.
Compared with the previous KCRPs, the 2016 document dedicates more space to the strategic priorities for the Kenya refugee operation for the year.
These priorities form five key areas of the 2016 programme: innovations in assistance delivery; strengthening of the legal status of persons of concern in Kenya; the development of the new site in Kalobeyei as an inclusive settlement for both host communities and refugees in Turkana County; consolidation of Dadaab to adjust to the reduced population; and enhanced voluntary repatriation to Somalia, which is closely linked with other durable solutions such as integration, for specific refugee groups. The introduction of innovations as a cross-cutting issue is reflected in a number of sectors to ensure the viable use of modern technology to increase efficiency in the Kenya refugee operation and to capitalise on the expertise of new partners, including those from the development and corporate spheres.
The KCRP is the result of an inclusive planning process and complementary programming with resources known to be available for refugees at the beginning of the year. The allocation of resources is the result of a joint prioritisation process undertaken by all partners in all three programmes in late 2015, followed by detailed programming and budgeting in early 2016. It complements the Inter-agency Regional Appeal for South Sudan Response from December 2015, which exclusively focuses on the South Sudan situation (and, therefore, the Kakuma part of the Kenya operation), and all other agency appeals and funding submissions.
The KCRP document provides an overview of the sectors and results that have been prioritised by the partners in the refugee operation, within the further reduced funding envelope for refugees in Kenya. Efforts have been made to increase the proportion allocated to solutions programming, including livelihoods, as well as host community projects and environmental protection and innovations both within and outside the camps. Nevertheless, initiatives such as the Artists for Refugees project and the inclusion of refugee athletes in the training for the Rio 2016 Olympics at the Tegla Loroupe training camp in Ngong are a testimony to the innovative spirit in the operation that can make a genuine difference in lives of individual refugees.
The only sector that received an actual increase in resources is voluntary repatriation, although the resources allocated thus far are insufficient to sustain the current rate of returns for the entire year, due to the high cost of transportation and individual grants. Meanwhile, allocations had to be made for continued provision of basic services within acceptable standards, to avoid adverse effects on the well-being of persons of concern (POCs) that could wipe out the gains made over the years, and possibly result in wide spread public health crisis.
The ongoing response to a cholera outbreak in Dadaab is a case in point. Provisions also had to be made for all necessary recurrent costs, including security, fuel and logistical support for the operation.
The 2015 Nutrition Survey results for Kakuma illustrate clearly how fragile the current status of the refugee population is, as reduced food assistance in the last few months of 2015 led to global acute malnutrition rates of below 11%, the lowest since 2009. It is also an illustration of the dependency of the majority of refugees on the international aid provided in the camps, especially those who are relatively recent arrivals and lack other coping mechanisms. This is further demonstrated by the results of the Vulnerability Study undertaken in Kakuma in 20152, which shows that only some 8% of the population currently engages in formal livelihoods activities and/ or has other means of survival than the assistance provided. On the other hand the preliminary results of the World Bank socio-economic study in Turkana West established that the presence of refugees does have a positive impact on the economy of the Turkana County.
The shift which the Kalobeyei project intends to propose aims at formalizing economic exchanges in order to support and boost opportunities offered by the presence in the Kakuma area of half of the “urban” population of the Turkana County. The focus will be placed on strength rather than on vulnerabilities.
The limited envelope of resources for the Kakuma operation could not stretch to adequately support the development of the new settlement in Kalobeyei, but rather had to concentrate on basic services and protection in the camps. The preparatory phase of the Kalobeyei project for which the resources had been set aside from the 2015 UNHCR budget will need to be followed by new contributions in 2016, so that the development of the site can truly take off and Kalobeyei is able to receive the first settlers around mid-year. It is hoped that several new funding instruments that have been put in place by the European Union can benefit the Kenya operation in 2016 and beyond, as well as support the improvement of the situation in Somalia and thus our goal of sustainable returns.
The overall resources currently programmed in the Kenya refugee operation amount to $ 119 million for protection and basic services, including UNHCR and partners’ protection and programme staff and administrative support.
However, the resources currently made available by UNHCR do not represent resources actually received as contributions from donors but the operating level that has been allocated the Kenya operation by UNHCR within the global envelope. In addition, $ 110.2 million is required for the food aid, of which WFP has so far secured some 43.1 million, or 38.2%. The total available for the operation at the beginning of the year amounts to some $ 162 million, which represents a decline of some 10% compared with 20153.
Looking only at the non-food assistance, the year on decline in available resources is even greater - some $ 29.1 million, or roughly 21%. The bulk of the decline has been recorded in the resources raised by partners with some $22 million less in contributions as of February 2016.
These Funding Challenges notwithstanding, the Kenya refugee programme has embarked on an ambitious undertaking, for which support from all parties is required. The onus is therefore on the humanitarian actors to work harder and faster on transforming the refugee programme to viable alternatives to the current camps, making use of technological innovations and other opportunities for greater efficiencies in assistance delivery, including the inclusion of new partners in the operation, and the devolution of power to the counties traditionally hosting refugees. The allocation of land in Kalobeyei for the development of a settlement for both refugees and host community presents an opportunity to try this approach practically and inform the future refugee assistance model globally.