Kakuma camp in Kenya surpasses its 100,000 capacity

News Stories, 6 August 2012

© UNHCR/R.Gangale
Refugees at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, which has now exceeded its capacity of 100,000 refugees and is expecting more.

KAKUMA REFUGEE CAMP, Kenya, 6 August (UNHCR) Kakuma Refugee Camp has surpassed its capacity of 100,000 residents, creating serious concerns as more refugees continue to arrive.

By the end of July the population of the camp established in northern Kenya in 1992 had reached 100,009 following a steady influx of new arrivals over the past two years.

"The threat of conflict in neighbouring countries, particularly Sudan and South Sudan, is expected to continue to drive asylum seekers toward Kenya for the remainder of the year and into 2013," said Guy Avognon, UNHCR's Head of Sub-Office in Kakuma.

Through the first seven months of this year 12,123 individuals were registered in the camp, the majority having fled violence and conflict in South Sudan's Jonglei State and Sudan's South Kordofan. Significant numbers from Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have also sought asylum in Kakuma this year.

Avognon expressed concern about possible tension between camp residents and members of the local community due to the limited water and other resources in the area. The provision of life-saving assistance and important services is becoming increasingly difficult due to limited funding to cater for the growing population, particularly in the shelter, sanitation, education, and healthcare sectors.

"The sustained rate of new arrivals to the camp has already depleted all available land in the new settlement areas, and despite serious overcrowding in many parts of the camp, UNHCR and its partners are working to identify available space to settle new arrivals within existing settlements," the head of the UNHCR sub-office said.

The increasing population is creating serious concerns for the operation as the boundaries of the camp cannot be extended further unless new sources of water are identified. Since the beginning of the year efforts to supply sufficient quantities of clean, safe drinking water have become a critical challenge, with refugees now receiving less than the standard 20 litres of water per person per day.

UNHCR's discussions with the Kenyan government to establish a second camp have been ongoing for the past year, but as yet no agreement has been reached, though a potential site has been identified some 35 kilometres from Kakuma. UNHCR is optimistic the discussions will be successful and additional land will be made available before the end of the year.

However, an estimated US$16.7 million would be required to set up a second camp and UNHCR's current financial constraints mean this would likely also pose significant challenges.

Emmanuel Nyabera in Kakuma Refugee Camp