Kenya: Kakuma Refugee Camp receives new influx of South Sudanese refugees
20 January 2014

A group of newly arrived refugees from South Sudan wait to fetch water at Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. The camp has witnessed an influx of refugees from South Sudan following clashes that broke out in Africa's newest state in mid-December 2013. (Alex Kiptanui/JRS)
The number of children who are in the camp have risen sharply and this will stretch available resources to the limit. With very little resources being allocated to respond to these emerging needs, the situation is bound to get worse.

Kakuma, 20 January, 2014 - Kakuma Refugee Camp has recently seen a steady influx of new arrivals from South Sudan due to the conflict being witnessed there. As the situation gets worse, more and more refugees continue to flee their homes in search of safety. At the Old Reception centre, tents filled with desperate families can be seen with stories recounted of how dire the situation is in Africa’s newest nation.

A flurry of activities have been initiated to ensure that basic amenities are provided, while medical personnel are  on standby in the event of any outbreak of diseases. So far, 5 cases of people suspected to have measles have been identified and isolated from those they interact with at Lopiding Hospital, near Lokichoggio a few kilometres from the border with South Sudan.

More Casualties. The flight of the refugees from South Sudan has not been without casualties. A 7 month old baby girl who arrived at the border point with her mother sadly died from severe dehydration as a result of the long trek to the border. She arrived at the border very weak and upon diagnosis, was rushed to the nearest hospital for treatment. This was a little too late. More children have suffered horrendous nights away from their homes and arrive hungry and in need of medical attention. According to Hilda Thuo, an aid worker with Lutheran World Federation (LWF), more than 3,624 children had been received by 13th January, 2014 in the camp with 328 of them being unaccompanied minors. The war has separated these children with their loved ones.

James*, from Bor town of Jonglei State, recounted how lucky he was to have survived the fighting which occurred in his area. He explained that the fighting broke out quite unexpectedly as he was doing his daily business in the town. He only managed to get his wife and children to a vehicle that was coming to the border. His father was lucky too. They have since been re-united in the new camp site in Kakuma.

Others were not so lucky. He opines that the war is going to cause a lot of destruction to the country he once called home. James, has a temporary card which can allow him to access services in the camp. Once his registration is finalized by the Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA) and UNHCR, he will be able to settle down and prays for the end of the conflict. “I have been reduced to a beggar, yet back home, I could fend for my family with a lot of ease.” He speaks with a glazy distant look hiding the thoughts running through his head. “I would appreciate if I can find some work to be able to provide for the family. The food, water and firewood being supplied have eased this burden, but my children do not have any clothes. We ran away with nothing on our backs”, he sadly concludes.

As at 13th January, 2014, a total of 7,600 new arrivals had been received at the camp   3,624 of who are children. Among these children, 328 are unaccompanied and have since been kept in the reception centre till foster families can be identified..

I Remember You. We travel further to the camp where we meet a new family who also fled from Juba with her two brothers and a 1 year old baby boy. Seated with her outside the newly erected tent, is a woman who despite her failing health, is glad to have made it to the camp and away from the conflict. Her brothers confirm that they were pupils in Hai Kanisa Basic Primary in Nimule Eastern Equatoria (a school that was supported by JRS, during its’ 15 years presence in the area), and had been visiting in Juba when the war broke out. He will not be able to go back to the school, he tells me quite sadly. He looks at me and quickly comes to stand near saying, “you were with JRS in Nimule. I remember you!!”

The number of children who are in the camp have risen sharply and this will stretch available resources to the limit. With very little resources being allocated to respond to these emerging needs, the situation is bound to get worse. Yet, the refugees continue to put on a brave face while trying to adjust to the change in the lives.

JRS has already made arrangements to offer psycho-social support services to the new arrivals at the reception centres and the new site in the camp. Deb-briefing sessions have been conducted to help them heal from the traumas they might have suffered from while on transit to the camp. Two tents that were donated by UNHCR are currently being erected in Kakuma 4 and will serve as a temporary facility for providing psychosocial support to the refugees who might have faced trauma while running away from their homes. So far, the counsellors have been able to visit the new area on a daily basis to assess the situation of new arrivals upon their settlement from the reception centres.

We are also expecting that our Safe Haven facilities will be stretched to the limit if persons with security risks are identified and referred. The increasing number of new arrivals puts a strain on our resources, but with more donor support JRS can cater for the needs of the most vulnerable among them.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity

By Alex Kiptanui - Project Director, JRS Kakuma Project

JRS began work in Kakuma refugee camp in 1994 to respond to the thousands of refugees fleeing the civil war in Sudan. Located in north-western Kenya near the Sudanese border, the camp opened in 1992 and as of December 2013, hosts over 130,000 refugees. JRS provides refugees with the opportunity to build new skills for life outside the camp, through a psychosocial counselling and vocational training programme, as well as support for primary, secondary and higher education.


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