Kakuma Refugee Camp Resilient in the Midst of Flooding

Queuing for distribution of non-food items in Kakuma. Photo: LWF/DWS Kenya-Djibouti
Queuing for distribution of non-food items in Kakuma. Photo: LWF/DWS Kenya-Djibouti

Nine Dead, Two Thousand Affected as River Overflows

(LWI) – Heavy seasonal flooding in Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya has killed nine people and swept away or severely damaged 500 houses but The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which runs the camp, says residents remain resilient.

“The mood is one of resilience,” said Lennart Hernander, program representative for the LWF World Service Kenya-Djibouti Program. “Refugees are people who have been through a lot, who know that life is difficult, hard and a constant struggle,” he added.

“There is sadness, anger, fear, but most of all maybe resilience in some way. Of course we need to do more to prevent and to respond but these people know that nature is hard and unjust.”

The camp houses 175,000 refugees – 102,000 of them children – from South Sudan, Sudan, Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In recent weeks the seasonal Tarach River that cuts through the refugee camp flooded its banks.

About 100 families began moving to higher ground and soon the LWF, UNHCR and other agencies estimated that 2,000 refugees had lost food, household items, clothes and shelter. The Kakuma secondary school was damaged and examination materials soaked but scheduled exams went on.

An interagency team that includes the LWF has worked tirelessly to relocate affected families, erect temporary shelter, provide food, blankets and clean drinking water to the camp.

A child protection team is assessing the specific situation for children in the camp while school visits were ensuring that exams continue in the midst of the flood crisis.

Damaged water pipelines are being fixed or replaced and new locations are being sought for damaged boreholes.

“Staff are working hard, diverting all attention to respond to this, and doing a fantastic job,” Hernander said, though they have had also had to deal with two fires.