Kakuma Refugee Camp Holistic Support

by IsraAID
Kakuma Refugee Camp Holistic Support
Kakuma Refugee Camp Holistic Support
Kakuma Refugee Camp Holistic Support
Kakuma Refugee Camp Holistic Support
Kakuma Refugee Camp Holistic Support
Kakuma Refugee Camp Holistic Support
Kakuma Refugee Camp Holistic Support
Kakuma Refugee Camp Holistic Support
Kakuma Refugee Camp Holistic Support
Kakuma Refugee Camp Holistic Support
Kakuma Refugee Camp Holistic Support
Kakuma Refugee Camp Holistic Support

The past year has in no way been a “normal” year. Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic had immense and adverse implications on this program, just as it did in each and every one of our lives. Travel became increasingly difficult, local restrictions changed regularly, and vulnerable communities, including refugee and host community members in Kakuma and Kalobeyei, were placed in an even more vulnerable position. Within this reality, activities as originally planned were close to impossible to implement. The IsraAID Kenya team, during this period, launched a number of emergency response interventions to support vulnerable communities in Kakuma and Kalobeyei. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have accomplished the following:

Recruitment of staff and facilitators from the refugee and host communities. A child protection program manager and MEAL officer were also recruited. Facilitators were trained on Child Protection.

A baseline assessment was conducted to determine resilience in children and caregivers, and measure the level of knowledge among community members and leaders regarding MHPSS and CP. 

Promoting awareness of MHPSS and Protection through door-to-door home visits: PSS activities were facilitated on the household level for children, and caregivers were also engaged. The door-to-door approach was a major success, not only in overcoming the challenges of COVID-19 limitations, but also offering our team an opportunity to directly engage children with disabilities who would otherwise be unlikely to participate in activities at child-friendly space as leaving their homes is more complex. Furthermore, home visits provide more individualized attention to children because the intervention is inherently in a much smaller group. This also offered us more face time and relationship-building opportunities with parents, who are more active and therefore more aware of MHPSS and protection issues.

School-based MCFS approach: IsraAID Kenya partnered with Finish Church Aid (FCA) to provide MHPSS to children and adolescents in four schools, engaging them in structured art and play activities. This relationship helped us reach new target audiences, including launching school-based interventions and engaging additional host community members. This helped us reach more children, community leaders, and teachers with MHPSS and protection awareness.

Radio Messaging: IsraAID partnered with two local radio stations to hold child-Friendly CP and MHPSSAwareness Campaigns on radio show broadcasts and edutainment programs. These feature stories and short plays that build stress management skills and promote COVID-19 prevention guidelines.  

Call Centre: IsraAID Kenya operates a call center that follows up with families targeted by door-to-door outreach efforts to provide ongoing information and referrals. This ensures continued engagement of families dealing with stressful situations.

Community leaders also engage in small meetings with the program manager to provide basic awareness on CP and referral pathways.

The main challenge for our project has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to continuously monitoring new and changing guidelines that affect our team’s ability to travel and more, the levels of stress in the target community has of course skyrocketed, and the “shadow pandemics” of rising rates of Gender-Based Violence, malnutrition, and other protection issues are increasingly present in our outreach work. Some activities could not occur given the situation. For example, the plan to engage community leaders through dialogue forums and children’s clubs; and we were unable to host awareness-raising gatherings. 

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Apio Annet - Country Director, IsraAID Kenya and IsraAID Uganda

How has the COVID-19 outbreak impacted your daily work?

Refugee camps are a particularly difficult environment to control the spread of infection because access to vital essentials — including soap, water, other hygiene products, and indeed information — is extremely limited. Refugees in remote areas speak multiple languages and very few own radios; television is not even an option.

How are you able to respond?

Our facilitators, who — during ‘normal’ times — run each of our Child-Friendly Spaces, are our main asset. They’re locally-recruited, meaning that they are from the refugee or host communities, and IsraAID Protection professionals have trained them to support children and their families. This means that across Kenya and Uganda we have 75 young, committed community leaders, ready to jump into action.


Irene Mulanda - Child Protection Specialist, IsraAID Kenya
Why do you enjoy working as a Child Protection Specialist?

"I love working with and for the children. They are all special in their own unique way. Finding creative strategies to enable them to cope well with their problems is more than just a job, it brings forth a fulfilling experience by itself."

What do you hope for the future of the community?

"I hope the community becomes even more self-reliant, in their skills, their knowledge, and their confidence. Resilience will enable the community to bounce back, regardless of any negative forces that come their way."

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IsraAID Kenya’s programs, since 2012, have focused on strengthening community-based and institutional capacities to support refugees and host populations exposed to poverty in the sectors of Mental Health, Protection, and Medical Care, to ensure Kakuma is a place of opportunity. We operate 3 Child Resource Centers (CRC) in Kakuma and Kalobeyei area, providing daily MHPSS (Mental Health and Psychosocial) interventions for children. In the months since COVID-19 began to spread, IsraAID Kenya has shuttered the doors of our Child Resource Centers in accordance with government regulations to close educational institutions toward preventing the spread of the virus. 

Within these circumstances, IsraAID’s Child Resource Centers in Kakuma and Kalobeyei remain closed. In partnership with a local youth community-based organization, we have shifted to overcome the current barriers to providing Protection and Psychosocial support to our beneficiaries, by adapting our service provision models to virtual and remote approaches, shifting to home visits and other small group structures to facilitate a safe environment, and creating temporary projects relevant to this current period. As such, IsraAID’s programs have changed with COVID-19, shifting toward achieving the following goals:

  1. Conducting door-to-door or small group child-friendly interventions
  2. Adapting our program model to virtual and remote mediums such as call centers
  3. Adding COVID-19 specific information—pertaining to local guidelines, safety measures, and coping mechanisms—to all outreach activities, and ensuring that these materials are accessible to illiterate populations as well as those who may face other language barriers
  4. Leveraging mass media to broadcast messaging to larger audiences, per recommendations by the Kenyan government
  5. Training cohorts of new and ongoing community facilitators to implement the above in a safe, inclusive, and child-sensitive manner
  6. Delivering 1400 malaria kits, 400 cartons of nutritional supplements, 2000 masks, and medicine - a total of 9 tonnes of supplies - to our partner IRC to combat malnutrition and malaria

Thank you for your continued support for our projects in Kenya.

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Since 2011, IsraAID has been working in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. We have established Water, Hygiene and Sanitation (WASH) projects, psychosocial support networks, Child Friendly Spaces (CFS), among other education, protection and mental health projects. Due to the recent COVID-19 global pandemic, many of our IsraAID's activities in Kakuma have been put on pause, or adapted to comply with government regulations.

As of May 16th 2020, there are no confirmed cases of the virus in Kakuma refugee camp, however, restriction of movement of persons in and out the camp remains effective until at least the end of May. Additionally, residents are under a 7 pm - 5 am daily curfew (national directive by the Government of Kenya) and all movements in and out of the camp have been restricted to only essential services, and cargo. 

Support for vulnerable groups must be prioritized. For IsraAID, that means the refugees we work with, who live in often-overcrowded, under-resourced camps, with limited access to medical care and safe water.

These new regulations that encourage social distancing do not really work within the refugee camp context. If the virus were to spread to Kakuma, it would be very difficult to contain. Water, for instance, is only available from communal boreholes. It is the same story for picking up food distributions. Kakuma camp’s population cannot avoid gathering in public — it is how they get their essentials.

On top of the need to collect basic necessities like water and food, refugees in Kakuma have no access to hand sanitizer and, for some, even soap is in short supply. Without the income to purchase these hygiene products, they rely heavily on aid from UNHCR, further limiting the capacity to reduce the spread of coronavirus if it reaches the camp. 

IsraAID has been forced to halt its child-friendly services in order to limit exposure of the virus to children. While many organizations are now moving their work online, the population of Kakuma camp has limited access to the internet and most of our services involve heavy personal interaction. We have, therefore, had to be creative in how we provide our services when our usual facilities are closed, and many of the staff are working remotely. 

In terms of the daily life of the refugees we work with, this means that children will not have access to child protection services, and field staff and facilitators will be without work for an indefinite period of time. Our field teams, which are made up mostly of refugees from the community, have been raising awareness on COVID-19, hygiene promotion, and psychosocial support activities to parents and caregivers whose children are registered to our facilities. We have been reaching the families in Kakuma through phone calls, since most of our beneficiaries do not have regular access to the internet. We are also doing followup phone calls to ensure that the information has been understood fully, and shared among the family. This has really been helpful in addressing their concerns and offering psychosocial support. If necessary, we can also refer individuals to the relevant agencies for further support. 

We are also supporting partners through mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) coordination, working in groups to develop scripts for radio shows. These aim to help children deal with stress and anxiety during this period.

We look forward to re-opening our Child Friendly Spaces as soon as the authorities deem these activities safe. In the meantime, we are finding ways to keep working with these communities while the coronavirus-related limitations last.

Thank you for your support refugees in Kakuma during this especially challenging period. 


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On November 20, 2019, the Iboa Child Friendly Space (CFS) opened its doors to residents of Uganda's Palorinya Refugee settlement, to provide integrated Protection and education services to some 166,000 South Sudanese refugees and 140,000 Ugandan host community members. 60% of this population is made up of children—many of whom have experienced war, displacement, famine, and other issues that can exacerbate their mental and emotional health.

The Iboa CFS was a created to respond to the needs on the ground, and establish a safe space for children from the refugee and host communities to play, learn, develop, and grow.

Daily activities are implemented by 10 facilitators—3 of whom are refugees, and 7 Ugandans—who completed training with the IsraAID professional team on CFS facilitation, Child Protection, and the basics of providing Psychosocial Support services.

Feedback from community members about the establishment of the Iboa CFS is positive, and often centers around the new opportunity the CFS presents for integration between the refugee and host communities. Children explained that even though classes at Iboa Primary School are made up of both refugee and host children, the busy school schedule leaves them without time to play together. After school, refugee and host children go home to separate neighborhoods were they don’t have a space to interact. The Iboa CFS answers this need, providing a play center where children can dance, sing, learn, and create together, learning about each other’s cultures and experience, as well as cultivate relationships between these communities.

Nataline is a 13-year-old girl. Her mother is Ugandan, and her father, who unfortunately passed away in 2017, was South Sudanese. Today Nataline lives with her mother in a Ugandan neighborhood.

Nataline feels that she is more South Sudanese than Ugandan, but because she was raised in Uganda and her father hasn’t been in her life for the past few years, she can hardly speak Kuku, the South Sudanese language he spoke.

Nataline explains that coming to Iboa CFS has allowed her to play more with other South Sudanese children. “Before the CFS was opened, I used to play in the Ugandan neighborhood with only Ugandans but now when the CFS was opened I play with both Ugandan s and South Sudanese, even my Kuku is improving because we use Kuku while playing.”

Nataline added that playing with South Sudanese kids has taught her how to better understand South Sudanese culture. For example, she now knows South Sudanese music and dance, and allows her to connect to her roots.

Nataline is one example of how the Iboa CFS is bringing together the host and refugee communities, offering for the first time an opportunity for the children to play and learn together, toward creating a more diverse, tolerant society in the future.

Thank you for your ongoing support!

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Organization Information


Location: Tel Aviv, Merkaz - Israel
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @IsraAID
Project Leader:
Molly Bernstein
Tel Aviv, Merkaz Israel
$3,012 raised of $99,000 goal
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