Kenya: Protection centre for women and children extended
20 July 2011

If all goes well, the new rooms of the safe haven protection centre in Kakuma will be finished by end of August. (Petra Dankova/JRS)
Women and children find temporary protection, shelter, food, education and psychosocial support at the Safe Haven when they encounter gender based violence in the community.
Kakuma, 20 July 2011 – In June 2011, Jesuit Refugee Service Kakuma began constructing four additional rooms in its "Safe Haven" protection centre, hosting women and children who are survivors of gender based violence.

While the completion of the project was temporarily at risk, due to a lack of funds, construction activities can now go ahead, as additional funding from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has been confirmed on Wednesday.

The extension was much expected as the Safe Haven has been congested beyond its maximum capacity for many months now.The current facility consists of six residential rooms that should not host more than 40 women and children at any time.

However, the need is overwhelming."The Safe Haven currently has 45 residents", says Mercy Ireri, the Safe Haven Coordinator."Some residents do not even have a bed to sleep on and the overcrowding leads to conflicts among residents as several families are forced to share one room.But most of our residents would be at danger of death or serious harm if we refused them and so we feel compelled to make space for people even if we know that our capacity is overstretched", she continues.

Eight people share one room

As an example of the current situation, Ms Ireri shows a room that is currently shared by a Ugandan woman with a small child, a Congolese woman with four children of various ages and a young Sudanese girl trying to escape forced marriage.

The newly constructed four rooms will help to both reduce the congestion in the current accommodation and to increase the total capacity of the facility.

Explains Ms Ireri: "More refugees are coming to Kakuma every day and among them those who need our protection.At the same time, thanks to awareness activities, more women and girls realise that there is a safe place where they can get help rather than suffer silently in the communities." 

The residents of the Safe Haven welcome the construction with joy, hoping that it will be the next step in helping them to live with dignity as they recover from the traumatic experiences in their past.

Funding shortages temporarily put progress at risk

JRS Project Director, Hezekiah Ombiro, however, was temporarily concerned about the completion of the project. "We received funding for the extension from UNHCR. However, prices of building materials skyrocketed in the past months, confronting us with costs that are almost 25 percent higher than anticipated. We are extremely grateful that UNHCR agreed to provide additional funds to close that gap."

With an additional USD3,300 now pledged by UNHCR, construction of the four new rooms will be finalised by end of August.

The Safe Haven is the only facility of its kind in Kakuma. Women and children find temporary protection, shelter, food, education and psychosocial support at the Safe Haven when they encounter gender based violence in the community. Some of the residents have faced attempted forced marriage, abductions, rape and severe domestic violence. 

While JRS provides protection at the Safe Haven, UNHCR and partner agencies seek to help the residents identify safe alternatives for sustainable living arrangements in Kakuma and beyond.

Press Contact Information
Angelika Mendes
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