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2015 UNHCR country operations profile - Kenya

| Overview |

Working environment

UNHCR 2015 Kenya country operations map

  • Regional political and security developments, climate change, and the resulting impact on human lives and livelihoods, are projected to affect humanitarian programmes and refugee operations in Kenya.

  • For the third year in a row, Kakuma camp, in Turkana County, has been receiving record numbers of refugees from South Sudan. The Government of Kenya decided, on humanitarian grounds, to grant refugee status on a prima facie basis to South Sudanese fleeing violence in the country. By late August 2014, there were more than 42,000 new arrivals in Kakuma. Failing a lasting ceasefire and peace and reconciliation in South Sudan, the steady influx into Kenya is likely to continue into 2015.

  • By the end of August 2014, Kakuma camp was unable to accommodate new arrivals; consequently, UNHCR has been seeking to secure new land for its operations in Turkana County. Meanwhile, fresh resources and strategic partners are needed to develop, deliver and sustain quality protection and humanitarian solutions for both protracted and new populations of concern, with particular attention to the significant numbers of unaccompanied and separated children.

  • A tripartite agreement signed in November 2013 governs the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees in Dadaab, Kenya. This, coupled with ongoing efforts to consolidate peace, security and basic service delivery, and boost livelihood opportunities, are expected to encourage sustainable returns and reintegration.

  • In 2015, the country's strong humanitarian traditions of generosity and hospitality towards asylum-seekers and refugees are expected to continue. Government and host-community support include: the preservation of and access to asylum and international protection; access to adequate land and urban asylum space for a growing population of concern; and access to effective basic services, including health care, quality education, markets and livelihood opportunities.

People of concern

Approximately two-thirds of the refugees and asylum-seekers in Kenya have fled general insecurity in their respective countries since the 1990s. It is foreseen that by the end of 2015, refugees and asylum-seekers from Somalia will represent nearly 70 per cent of people of concern to UNHCR in Kenya, followed by South Sudanese at 20 per cent, and Ethiopians at four per cent.

UNHCR 2015 planning figures for Kenya
Type of population Origin January 2015 December 2015
Total in country Of whom assisted
Total in country Of whom assisted
Total 650,610 630,610 662,850 642,850
Refugees Ethiopia 21,300 21,300 19,510 19,510
Somalia 462,970 462,970 444,330 444,330
South Sudan 97,780 97,780 125,120 125,120
Various 14,690 14,690 13,950 13,950
Asylum-seekers Dem. Rep. of the Congo 9,700 9,700 11,610 11,610
Ethiopia 8,840 8,840 8,400 8,400
South Sudan 780 780 1,060 1,060
Various 14,540 14,540 18,880 18,880
Stateless Stateless 20,000 - 20,000 -

| Response |

Needs and strategies

Based on the experience and developments of 2014, the majority of essential needs in 2015 are expected to remain in the areas of: life-saving and life-sustaining support, and the pursuit of sustainable and durable solutions. The main priorities are projected to be in: preserving access to asylum and international protection for asylum-seekers and refugees; delivering essential life-saving services in safety and security; providing basic shelter, primary health care, clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services; enabling access to education, acquisition of marketable skills, and work opportunities; as well as supporting voluntary repatriation, resettlement and requests for alternative residency status.

Strategies to achieve the desired outcomes include engaging and coordinating with interested stakeholders to provide technical and material support to governmental, non-governmental and community-based awareness-raising and capacity-building efforts as part of a broader and integrated solutions' framework for refugees and host communities. Community-based, protection-compliant approaches in law and order as well as child protection and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) prevention and response activities will also be implemented.

The Government's reception, registration, documentation, refugee status determination (RSD) and camp management capabilities will be consolidated, and UNHCR will empower community-based management of service-delivery infrastructure.

The joint global education strategy of UNHCR, UNICEF and the Government, adapted to the local context and contributing to child protection and SGBV responses and prevention, will be implemented and durable solutions and livelihood opportunities enhanced. UNHCR will continue to pursue coordinated advocacy and strategic interventions to prevent statelessness among at-risk communities and refugee-hosting communities.

To advance these goals, the Office will foster strategic partnerships with key institutions, specialist service providers and targeted communities.

| Implementation |


UNHCR will maintain and foster strategic partnerships to ensure that asylum-seekers and refugees in Kenya receive protection. Coordinated action will aim to deliver effective and sustainable solutions to improve their conditions, through engagement with key institutions in the national and county executives, legislatures and judiciary, as well as with the private sector and concerned communities.

The Ministry of the Interior and Coordination of National Government in the Office of the President and its Department of Refugee Affairs, are UNHCR's primary government counterparts in asylum and refugee management.

Other main partners are the UN Country Team, international and national NGOs, and the Kenya Red Cross Society. In the refugee camps, WFP is the principal provider of food assistance, while regarding child protection, SGBV responses, water and sanitation, nutrition and health, as well as education, UNICEF is a key partner.

2015 UNHCR partners in Kenya
Implementing partners
Government agencies: Ministry of the Interior and Coordination of National Government (Department of Refugee Affairs), Ministry of Health
NGOs: CARE International, Danish Refugee Council, Don Bosco - Kenya, Fafi Integrated Development Association, FilmAid International, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), International Rescue Committee, Islamic Relief Kenya, Jesuit Refugee Service, Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Kenya Red Cross Society, Legal Advice Centre (Kituo Cha Sheria) - Kenya, Lutheran World Federation, National Council of Churches of Kenya, Norwegian Refugee Council, Peace Winds Japan, Refugee Consortium of Kenya, Relief Reconstruction and Development Organisation, Save the Children International, Windle Trust UK in Kenya
Others: UNV
Operational partners
Government agencies: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of the Interior and Coordination of National Government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
NGOs: Action Against Hunger, Catholic Relief Services, Centre for Torture Victims - Kenya, Cooperazione e Sviluppo, GOAL, Handicap International, International Life Line Fund, International Service Volunteers Association, InterNews Star FM, Médecins Sans Frontières - Suisse, Terre des Hommes, Women and Health Alliance, World Vision International
Others: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (German Agency for International Cooperation - GIZ), IOM, OCHA, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNDSS, UNFPA, UNICEF, WFP and WHO

| Financial information |

To respond effectively to the assessed needs in Kenya, UNHCR's budgets have risen in recent years, from USD 185.7 million in 2010 to a revised 2014 budget of USD 256.9 million. This recent growth is driven primarily by mass influxes of refugees, the latest originating from South Sudan.

Further to a comprehensive review of the overall needs and requirements and operational efforts to streamline service delivery, UNHCR Kenya's 2015 financial requirements are foreseen to drop by 4.7 per cent, from the current USD 256.9 million to USD 244.9 million.

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update

UNHCR contact information

The UNHCR Representation in Kenya
Style of Address The UNHCR Country Representative in Kenya
Street Address P.O. BOX 43801 - 00100, LYNWOOD COURT, OFF WAIYAKI WAY, WESTLAND, NAIROBI, KENYA, Nairobi, Kenya
Mailing Address P.O. Box 43801-00100 GPO, Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone 41 22 739 7280
Facsimile 41 22 739 7281
Time Zone GMT + 6
Working Hours
Monday:8:00 - 16:45
Tuesday:8:00 - 16:45
Wednesday:8:00 - 16:45
Thursday:8:00 - 16:45
Public Holidays 01 January 2016, New years day
25 March 2016, Good frdiay
28 March 2016, easter monday
02 May 2016, labor day
01 June 2016, madaraka day
07 July 2016, eid al fitr
13 September 2016, eid al adha
20 October 2016, mashujaa day
12 December 2016, jamuhuri day
26 December 2016, christmas day
UNHCR Sub Office Dadaab
Style of Address Head of UNHCR Sub Office Dadaab
Street Address Head of UNHCR Sub Office Dadaab, Dadaab Humanitarian Compound (on southern side of Dada, (on southern side of Dadaab town on road from Garissa), Dadaab, Kenya
Mailing Address UNHCR Sub Office Dadaab,, c/o UNHCR Branch Office for Kenya, 35 Rhapta Road, Westlands,, P.O. Box 43801, 00100 Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone 41 22 739 7562
Facsimile 41 22 739 7563
Time Zone GMT + 3
Working Hours
Monday:08:00 - 17:30
Tuesday:08:00 - 17:30
Wednesday:08:00 - 17:30
Thursday:08:00 - 17:30
Public Holidays 01 January 2016, New years day
25 March 2016, Good frdiay
28 March 2016, easter monday
02 May 2016, labor day
01 June 2016, madaraka day
07 July 2016, eid al fitr
13 September 2016, eid al adha
20 October 2016, mashujaa day
12 December 2016, jamuhuri day
26 December 2016, christmas day


Statistical Snapshot*
* As at June 2015
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained. In the absence of Government figures, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in many industrialized countries based on 10 years of individual asylum-seeker recognition.
  3. Persons whose applications for asylum or refugee status are pending as at 30 June 2015 at any stage in the asylum procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015. Source: country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and assistance. It also includes people in IDP-like situations. This category is descriptive in nature and includes groups of persons who are inside their country of nationality or habitual residence and who face protection risks similar to those of IDPs but who, for practical or other reasons, could not be reported as such.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015.
  7. Refers to persons who are not considered as nationals by any State under the operation of its law. This category refers to persons who fall under the agency's statelessness mandate because they are stateless according to this international definition, but data from some countries may also include persons with undetermined nationality.
  8. Refers to individuals who do not necessarily fall directly into any of the other groups but to whom UNHCR may extend its protection and/or assistance services. These activities might be based on humanitarian or other special grounds.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Kenya [1]
Refugees [2] 552,272
Asylum Seekers [3] 40,341
Returned Refugees [4] 1,231
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 20,000
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 613,844
Originating from Kenya [1]
Refugees [2] 7,474
Asylum Seekers [3] 3,278
Returned Refugees [4] 1,231
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 3
Total Population of Concern 11,986

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Ministerial Pledging Conference on Somali Refugees

The conference, which will took place in Brussels on 21 October 2015, and focused on creating conditions for voluntary return.

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Running out of space: Somali refugees in Kenya

The three camps at Dadaab, which were designed for 90,000 people, now have a population of about 250,000 Somali civilians, making it one of the world's largest and most congested refugee sites. UNHCR fears tens of thousands more will arrive throughout 2009 in this remote corner of north-east Kenya as the situation in their troubled country deteriorates further.

Resources, such as food and water, have been stretched dangerously thin in the overcrowded camps, with sometimes 400 families sharing one tap. There is no room to erect additional tents and the new arrivals are forced to share already crowded shelters with other refugees.

In early 2009, the Kenyan government agreed to allocate more land at Dadaab to accommodate some 50,000 refugees. View photos showing conditions in Dadaab in December 2008.

Running out of space: Somali refugees in Kenya

Dire Times in Dadaab

Angelina Jolie's visit to Dadaab in north-east Kenya puts a spotlight on the overcrowded camp complex, home to tens of thousands of refugees.

When UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visited Dadaab in north-east Kenya on September 12, 2009, she saw first-hand some of the tough conditions that tens of thousands of refugees must live in. The overcrowded three-camp complex is home to more than 285,000 mainly Somali refugees, making it the largest refugee settlement in the world. The camps were established in the early 1990s and were intended for a maximum of 90,000 people. Up to 7,000 people are now arriving every month to escape continuing conflict in Somalia. Jolie talked to residents about their daily life and their exile. These images show her meetings with the refugees of Dadaab and show some of the conditions they live in. Aside from overcrowding, they face water shortages, crammed classrooms, health problems, the coming rainy season and a range of other difficulties. UNHCR hopes new land will be allocated soon for the new arrivals.

Dire Times in Dadaab

Dadaab: World's Biggest Refugee Camp Turns 20

Last year, 2011, was the 20th anniversary of the world's biggest refugee camp - Dadaab in north-eastern Kenya. The anniversary is a reminder of the suffering of the Somali people, who have been seeking safety and shelter for two decades. UNHCR, which manages the Dadaab complex, set up the first camps there between October 1991 and June 1992. This followed a civil war in Somalia that in 1991 had culminated in the fall of Mogadishu and overthrow of the Siad Barre regime.

The original intention was for the three Dadaab camps to host up to 90,000 people. However today they host more than 463,000 people, including some 10,000 third-generation refugees born in Dadaab to parents who were also born there.

Last year's famine in Somalia saw more than 150,000 new arrivals, a third of the camp's current population. Overcrowding and stretched resources as well as security concerns have all had an impact on the camp, but UNHCR continues to provide life-saving assistance.

Dadaab: World's Biggest Refugee Camp Turns 20

Somalia Emergency: Refugees move into Ifo Extension

The UN refugee agency has moved 4,700 Somali refugees from the outskirts of Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex into the Ifo Extension site since 25 July 2011. The ongoing relocation movement is transferring 1,500 people a day and the pace will soon increase to 2,500 to 3,000 people per day.

The refugees had arrived in recent weeks and months after fleeing drought and conflict in Somalia. They settled spontaneously on the edge of Ifo camp, one of three existing camps in the Dadaab complex, that has been overwhelmed by the steadily growing influx of refugees.

The new Ifo Extension site will provide tented accommodation to 90,000 refugees in the coming months. Latrines and water reservoirs have been constructed and are already in use by the families that have moved to this site.

Somalia Emergency: Refugees move into Ifo Extension

The Nubians in Kenya

In the late 1880s, Nubians from Sudan were conscripted into the British army. The authorities induced them to stay in Kenya by granting them homesteads and issuing them British colonial passports. The Nubians named their settlement near Nairobi, Kibra, or "land of forest." In 1917, the British government formally declared the land a permanent settlement of the Nubians. Since independence, Kenyan Nubians have had difficulty getting access to ID cards, employment and higher education and have been limited in their travel. In recent years, a more flexible approach by the authorities has helped ease some of these restric¬tions and most adult Nubians have been confirmed as Kenyan citizens, but children still face problems in acquiring Kenyan citizenship.

The Nubians in Kenya

Climate change and displacement

In the past few years, millions of people have been displaced by natural disasters, most of which are considered to be the direct result of climate change. Sudden weather events, such as Myanmar's Cyclone Nargis in 2008, widespread flooding in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camps in 2006 and the drought that hit Ethiopia in the 1980s, can leave huge numbers of people traumatized and without access to shelter, clean water and basic supplies.

The international community has entrusted UNHCR with responsibility for protecting and assisting people who are forcibly displaced and who cannot return safely home. Although the majority of people displaced by climate change will remain within their own borders, where states have clearly defined responsibilities, additional support may be required.

When called upon to intervene, UNHCR can deploy emergency teams and provide concrete support in terms of registration, documentation, family reunification and the provision of shelter, basic hygiene and nutrition.

Among those who are displaced across borders as a result of climate change, some will be refugees while others may not meet the definition. Nevertheless, many may be in need of protection and assistance.

Climate change and displacement

Return to SomaliaPlay video

Return to Somalia

Ali and his family are ready to return to Somalia after living in Dadaab refugee camp for the past five years. We follow their journey from packing up their home in the camp to settling into their new life back in Somalia.

Kenya: High Commissioner Visits Dadaab Refugee CampPlay video

Kenya: High Commissioner Visits Dadaab Refugee Camp

Last week the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres completed a visit to Kenya and Somalia where he met with the Presidents of the two countries, as well as Somali refugees and returnees.

Kenya: A Lifetime of WaitingPlay video

Kenya: A Lifetime of Waiting

Sarah was born and raised in Hagadera refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Now 21, she has become a wife and mother without ever setting foot outside the camp.

Somalia: Solutions For Somali RefugeesPlay video

Somalia: Solutions For Somali Refugees

In Kenya, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres discusses solutions for Somali refugees.

Kenya: Hawa's Dilemma Play video

Kenya: Hawa's Dilemma

When Hawa was a child, her father was murdered by rebels and her mother was kidnapped. Later Hawa was jailed and raped. When she was released, she fled to Kenya, where she now lives as a refugee. No one chooses to be a refugee.
Kenya: A Helping HandPlay video

Kenya: A Helping Hand

Heightened insecurity in the world's largest refugee camp has brought about a change among the refugee communities.
Kenya: Dadaab – Twenty Years OnPlay video

Kenya: Dadaab – Twenty Years On

The world's largest refugee camp is now the size of a small city, home to almost 500,000 refugees.
Kenya: In Need of ProtectionPlay video

Kenya: In Need of Protection

The legacy of Sudan's civil war haunts many refugees. In Kakuma camp some need special protection to ensure their safety.
Suad's StoryPlay video

Suad's Story

Suad, a student and teacher in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, tells how she's using technology to become self-sufficient and what this means for her family and community.
Kenya: Nubians in KiberaPlay video

Kenya: Nubians in Kibera

The Nubians came to Kenya from Sudan more than a century ago to fight for the British. After independence, many became stateless.
Kenya: New HomesPlay video

Kenya: New Homes

Thousands of Somali refugees journey to a new home as UNHCR opens a camp in Kenya.
Kenya: Refugee WomenPlay video

Kenya: Refugee Women

The long trek to safety in Kenya has been particularly hard for Somali mothers like Mariane, who was pregnant, and Fatuma, who lost her baby son en route.
Kenya: Camp ExtensionPlay video

Kenya: Camp Extension

To cope with the growing numbers of Somali refugees arriving at Dadaab in northern Kenya, UNHCR has begun moving people into a new area called the Ifo Extension.
Somalia: Fleeing FaminePlay video

Somalia: Fleeing Famine

Tukaay is one of the nearly 1.5 million internally displaced Somalis struggling with drought and conflict.
Kenya: Somalis in DadaabPlay video

Kenya: Somalis in Dadaab

They lived through decades of conflict but drought was the final straw, say Somalis who fled their homes for Kenya's Dadaab camp.
Kenya : Somali exodus to KenyaPlay video

Kenya : Somali exodus to Kenya

The world's largest refugee complex at Dadaab in north-east Kenya is growing steadily as a fresh wave of Somali civilians flee their country to escape drought or conflict.
Kenya: Voting for a New Future Play video

Kenya: Voting for a New Future

Southern Sudanese living in Nairobi vote in the referendum for independence.
Sudanese Vote in Kenyan ExilePlay video

Sudanese Vote in Kenyan Exile

Refugees in Kenya may have missed election day in South Sudan. But that did not stop them voting.
Kenya: Solar Success StoryPlay video

Kenya: Solar Success Story

UNHCR chief António Guterres is impressed by a green energy programme, supported by Portuguese energy company EDP, that is helping refugees in Kenya's Kakuma camp.
Kenya: Deck's DreamPlay video

Kenya: Deck's Dream

Deck has lived in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp for most of his life. The young Somali hopes that hard study will help him to a better future as a lawyer.
Dadaab: Easing the CrunchPlay video

Dadaab: Easing the Crunch

The crowded refugee complex at Dadaab in Kenya has been struggling to cope with new arrivals from Somalia. But the pressure will ease with an expansion planned.
Aid to Displaced KenyansPlay video

Aid to Displaced Kenyans

After weeks of bloody post-election clashes in Kenya, relative calm has returned to most parts of the country. The violence forced more than 250,000 Kenyans from their homes and thousands fled to Uganda.
Somali Refugees: Camps In CrisisPlay video

Somali Refugees: Camps In Crisis

UNHCR faces a major challenge in finding solutions for newly arrived Somalia refugees in Kenya.
UN High Commissioner Visits Somalis in KenyaPlay video

UN High Commissioner Visits Somalis in Kenya

In a visit to the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp on the Kenya-Somalia border in advance of World Refugee Day on Friday, the UN refugee agency chief, António Guterres said a political solution must be found to end the violence in Somalia and he acknowledged that UNHCR had to do more to help those uprooted by the 17-year conflict. Dadaab hosts 200,000 refugees with 20,000 new arrivals from Somali since January.