World, Africa

Kenya’s Kakuma camp gives refugees hope

UNHCR program helps prepare those affected by conflict for a better future when they return home

Ekip   | 21.06.2018
Kenya’s Kakuma camp gives refugees hope

Kenya

By Andrew Wasike and Magdalene Mukami

KAKUMA, Kenya

For those fleeing violence and conflict in their home countries, Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp has given them something priceless -- the chance to rebuild their lives with skills they can utilize once it is safe to return.

The camp has a population of more than 185,000, most of them refugees from 19 East and Central African countries, including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Most of them are fleeing from violence, separatist, ethnic and religious conflicts, tribal clashes, terrorism and political crises -- all of which are showing no signs of ending soon. As a result, the refugee population is ballooning.

At the camp, located in the country’s northwest, Anadolu Agency spoke to some of the refugees on World Refugee Day.

“We are arming ourselves with skills which we will use to rebuild our countries when we go back home," said Soieso Fumba, a Congolese refugee.

Fumba watched as militants killed her family but fled and never looked back. Since then, she has been afraid to return home and said the area is still dangerous.

The skills she was referring to were gained thanks to a project by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under the Don Bosco Vocational Centre, where hundreds of refugees are trained in skills including welding and metal fabrication, art and design and tailoring and dressmaking.

"When I came here, I was a student. I used to speak French -- not even a single word of English. Now I will leave this place a designer; a professional one, if I may say. I design clothes, I make my own patterns, and I am sure that once I leave this place for my home country, I will bring change," she said.

"This is a promise of a good future that the UNHCR has given us."

Thirty-two-year-old Kabat Hasafa said he ran away from Ethiopia, as he felt his life was in danger.

"I am learning at Don Bosco Technical School. I study carpentry and joinery. I am living at [the] Kakuma 3 [Refugee Camp]. I fled from my country because of some political issues. You know in our country, there is ethnic federalism. Ethnic federalism is not supported by the majority. I can say that, so I oppose that. Somehow, I have been harmed because of my ideology, so that is why I came,” Hasafa said.

He said the skills he has acquired will help him provide for his family.

"It is helping a lot because now I am a student. But after I finish this course, I can use what I learn here so I can do my business and survive. So I will start a family, and then life will continue as long as the UNHCR is alive."

Gashane Mulambo, a 23-year-old Congolese plumber who lost his parents and sister to tribal war, said things have changed for refugees in Kenya.

"We are no longer treated as stateless people and with disrespect. We have homes and countries which we love. It’s just that we can’t go back to war and conflict," Mulambo said.

"I fled my country after they killed my family...When I came here, I can say that the situation was very, very challenging. From here, what I have seen, the only benefit that we have here is education. So what I have to say is that once I hear that the situation is very good back home, I will definitely go [back] and use those skills."

"The refugees usually come here with their skills and experience while many others get their skills from here, so they can easily work in the country of asylum and can contribute to the local economy,” Danya Kattan, livelihood officer at UNHCR Kenya, who is responsible for the livelihood of refugees at the Kakuma refugee camp, told Anadolu Agency.

"The component of capacity building when it comes to vocational training will help them to be economically inclusive and also get them to work -- not only in the country of asylum, but also when they head back home to their country of origin as they participate in the reconstruction of their country."

Don Bosco has an established presence in the Kakuma refugee camp and has worked with the refugees since 1993 as a UNHCR implementing partner in vocational training in Kakuma. The UNHCR says it was originally set up in 1992 to host thousands of Sudanese refugees fleeing from civil war.

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