A better place for the elderly

Dadaab refugee camp resident, Jinay, says it's time we It’s time we recognized elderly people as a resource in the community. Photo: LWF Kenya

LWF supports aged refugees in Dadaab camp, Kenya

(LWI) - Being old is not always easy, Jinay can attest to that. “You struggle each day to manage every day life – and to feed your family,” she says. The refugee from Somalia is 75 years old and lives in Kambioos Refugee Camp, one of the five camps in the Dadaab camp complex in Kenya.

Jinay and her family fled from Kismayu, Somalia, because of war, drought and famine. She lost all her belongings, including her farm and livestock. The family was accorded refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Kenyan Government. Now Jinay lives with her son and grandchildren in an extended family of 10 people.

Discrimination and camp setting

Jinay faces the challenges that come with old age. Her vision is poor and she does not hear well.  She is also starting to suffer from high blood pressure. The food provided to refugees by the World Food Program is not tailored to the needs of the elderly, Jinay says. It lacks essential nutrients she needs.

It’s time we consciously recognize people of old age as resources in the community. They are custodians of values and community norms.  We need to recognize, utilize and strengthen their capacities and not just see them as liabilities.
Jinay, Dadaab Refugee camp

Elderly people in Dadaab are extremely vulnerable. LWF head of community service in Dadaab, Vitalis Koskei, says, “We often experience that assumption that age discrimination, and sometimes neglect and abuse of older persons is socially acceptable.”.

While this attitude can be found in many societies, it is made worse by the generally difficult setting of a refugee camp: living conditions cannot be adjusted to the needs of the elderly, medical care is not optimal, and as their physical ability decreases, so does people’s ability to interact with others in the community.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is the lead agency in charge of assisting people with specific needs – including the elderly - in the Dadaab complex. With other partners, LWF staff identify elderly people or people living with disabilities, assess the situation in which they live and set up material and psychosocial support systems. Jinay is one of the people who has benefitted from that support.

“Recognize resources”

Together with 120 other elderly people, she has been provided with a thick mattress, kitchen utensils and a solar lamp. She has also been enrolled in a fresh food voucher program so she can buy fresh food and improve her diet. “This is a gift from God,” Jinay says. “The voucher came at the right time, when I needed it most,” Jinay says.

In psychosocial support sessions, she now meets other people in her situation. They have formed a committee of 30 elderly people, who elected Jinay as their chair. In this group, they champion the needs of elderly with camp management and bring protection issues to the attention of the respective agencies.

“It’s time we consciously recognized people of old age as resources in the community,” Jinay emphasizes. “They are custodians of values and community norms.  We need to recognize, utilize and strengthen their capacities and not just see them as liabilities. Focusing on what they cannot do, and forgetting what they are capable of, is the main reason for the old age discrimination we should all fight against. If the world had more organizations like The Lutheran World Federation, the world would be a better place for us elderly.’’ 

LWF is the lead implementing partner of primary education, support to people with specific needs and psychosocial support in Hagadera and Kambioos refugee camps in Dadaab. The protection work is supported by UNHCR, Church of Sweden, Australian Lutheran World Service and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The fresh food voucher program is supported by Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe.


Contribution by Abdi Ore (Senior Community Social service supervisor), Milgo Dubow (camp social officer) and Vitalis Koskei (Head Of community service) of the LWF team in Dadaab, Kenya

LWF News

14 March 2018
28 February 2018
21 February 2018

LWF News

28 February 2018
12 February 2018
GENEVA, Switzerland
8 February 2018
GENEVA, Switzerland
25 January 2018