Where will they go? Closure of world’s largest refugee camp puts hundreds of thousands of children at risk

  • Children in danger of exploitation and abuse
  • Recent announcement will result in a humanitarian catastrophe, says aid agency
  • World Vision calls on the Government of Kenya to reconsider its decision

Nairobi, Kenya May 16th, 2016- Kenya’s plans to move quickly to close Dadaab refugee camp that provides a home for nearly 400,000 people, could result in a humanitarian catastrophe, warns World Vision.

The aid agency, who provides food assistance to more than 125,000 people in the camp, is particularly worried about the impact of the decision on children.

 “We are seriously concerned about what happens to the children whose lives are being put at risk by this decision. Many have fled the kind of violence no child should ever be subjected to,” said World Vision Kenya’s National Director Dickens Thunde.

“We know from working with these refugees that they have lived with uncertainty their whole lives – and this latest announcement just hits them again.

“An abrupt closure of the two camps would mean a humanitarian catastrophe for the region as neighbouring countries especially Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia are already shouldering huge numbers of refugees,” said Thunde. 

“This is why we are asking the Government of Kenya to reconsider its decision to close the Department of Refugee Affairs in Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps, which has until now been delivering crucial administrative services for refugees and asylum seekers. We ask them to continue to work with international governments and leaders to find a more humane solution.”

“We need to acknowledge that this is not a straightforward issue. The Government of Kenya understandably is concerned with the security of its people, and has borne a lot of responsibility for hosting refugees from the region over the years. Last week it showed a willingness to reconsider the situation, after confirming that Kakuma refugee camp will not be closed. 

The government, and the people of Kenya, have shown a lot of hospitality despite the huge economic and social pressure. But shutting down the refugee camps will mean increased risks for the thousands of refugees and asylum seekers – the majority of whom are women and children.”

Durable solutions, says World Vision, must include the long-term safety, security, freedom of movement and access to livelihoods of refugees.

Dadaab camp, in Kenya’s southeast, has approximately 400,000 refugees. Many have fled drought and conflict in Somalia, where the current situation is dire and fragile.

“The parts of the country that refugees would be forced to return to are deeply insecure and do not offer the hope or future that children deserve,” said World Vision Somalia Country Programme Director Simon Nyabwengi.

“We are particularly worried about the effect this will have on already vulnerable children, who would be susceptible to exploitation and abuse if not protected,” said Nyabwengi.

“International leaders, especially those gathering for the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey in a few weeks, need to provide more predictable and sufficient financial support to house and meet the needs of refugees in the region,” said Thunde.

“Children need peaceful and stable homes and communities to grow up in. More can and should be done to see this become a reality in their home countries.”



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Spokesperson available in Kenya: Jacqueline Rioba, Associate Director, Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs. 

For media inquiries or interviews, please contact May Ondeng in World Vision Kenya

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