Advocacy for refugees, Kenya

The humanitarian situation in Kenya remains fragile. UNHCR reported around 4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2017 and as of January 2018 there are 468,910 refugees and asylum-seekers registered within the country.

Kenya is a hub for mixed migration within Sub-Saharan Africa, with refugees, trafficked persons, and irregular and economic migrants arriving from countries including Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia.  Some 235,269 of these refugees and asylum seekers live in Dadaab refugee camp, which was established by the Kenyan government in 1991 as a temporary haven for people fleeing the fighting in neighbouring Somalia and is now the largest refugee camp in the world.

Andrew Maina is a Programme Officer for the Refugee Consortium in Kenya, a legal advocacy organisation working with refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs) with offices in Nairobi as well as Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. In November 2017 Andrew attended RedR UK’s Proposal and Report Writing course in Nairobi, funded by XL Caitlin.

Andrew explains more about his role and how his organisation’s advocacy work is helping to support refugees and IDPS in Kenya:

"We offer legal aid in the form of legal representation in court of law or at detention centres such as police stations. We also offer advocacy and policy development services, which includes legal and policy review and advocating for changes through parliament or through amendments to policy.

Part of our work is undertaking strategic litigation, moving the courts to issue orders that address the gap or the lapse in policy in terms of the protection of human rights.

As the Programme Officer, I’m responsible for monitoring the protection situation within the country. We have a team of protection monitors, some are Kenyan nationals and some are refugees, who monitor the situation on the ground along the Kenya/Somalia border as well as in the refugee camps. The teams report on the ability of  refugees or asylum seekers to access the country and whether they are being arrested or detained."

Refugees inside Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya.
Photo: Katie Holt for RedR UK, 2012
Refugees inside Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya. Photo: Katie Holt for RedR UK, 2012

Security in Kenya

Since late 2013, the security situation in Kenya has been adversely affected by several terrorist attacks for which the Somalia-based Al Shabaab group has claimed responsibility. Andrew describes the challenges of working in such a complex and insecure context:

"At the moment the challenges we are facing are mostly linked to cuts in funding as well as the growing negative narrative within the country around refugees; that they contribute to national insecurity. This is happening to the extent that it has become almost impossible to convince the government to view refugees as individuals who need protection rather than individuals who contribute to national insecurity.

Dadaab has five sub-camps, one of which hosts refugees from the 2011 crisis; caused by Al Shabab operations as well as the drought that was in Somalia. Last year they shut this sub-camp down and the government applied to shut the rest down, but thankfully this decision was blocked in the courts.

The narrative around refugees has also affected the encampment policy; refugees are not allowed to move outside the camps without a movement pass, which limits the rights that they have access to. In one case in 2014 security officials rounded up all the adult refugees living in the urban areas and forcibly removed them to refugee camps. The problem with this was that at the same time there were children who were attending Sunday school who were not with their parents and they were left unattended; some as young as 3 month-old babies. So we went to court and the court ordered that the parents be returned to their children in the urban area."

Refugees in Dadaab camp, Kenya.
Photo: Katie Holt for RedR UK, 2012
Refugees in Dadaab camp, Kenya. Photo: Katie Holt for RedR UK, 2012

The RedR Ripple Effect

Proposal and report writing serve important functions in humanitarian agencies and are common and necessary tasks for staff in various levels and roles throughout the organisation. The ability of NGOs to deliver aid is dependent on their access to funds, and the quality of project proposals determines whether or not funds are ultimately received. Andrew explains why he chose to attend the course and how he has created a 'ripple effect' by sharing his learning with colleagues:

"I went on the course to gain a better understanding of best practices in report writing and proposal development. It was also a chance for me to evaluate what I had been doing well and to see whether it conformed to accepted standards and best practice.

The training was very engaging. I particularly liked the fact that there were materials to go and read and research and engage with. The trainers were very qualified and had good experience – for me that creates the confidence that what you’re learning is something that has been applied in different fields and the information is reliable.

After the training I organised a session for staff to pass on the skills I had learned, because I felt that one of the things that was lacking within the organisation is a clear understanding of proposal development as well as report writing. The training of my colleagues went well; there were a lot of questions and I have observed improvement in how people craft their proposals and reports. Hopefully by the end of the year things will have significantly improved."

Understanding the needs of refugees

RedR UK’s Proposal and Report Writing training course introduces participants to best practices in proposal writing and gives them the knowledge to improve their efficacy in writing, presenting and defending proposals. Additionally, the training equips participants with the skills and techniques to write clear and engaging reports that encourage the reader to take action on your recommendations. Andrew shares his experiences of the impact of the RedR UK training, both on himself, his organisation and the beneficiaries that they work with: 

"One of the things that we were advised to do in the training was to focus more on results rather than activities in report writing. This is what I did and I noticed that it is easier to tease out recommendations, lessons learned and challenges. This has really improved the level of our report writing.

As a result of the training we are  looking at more ways to engage directly with beneficiaries; through the monitoring and evaluation process, focus group discussions and targeted key interviews. If you are just reading reports at your desk, you don’t always have a clear idea of the needs of refugees and IDPs in the camps. As a result of the training, we’re talking more to the beneficiaries, we have a better idea of the challenges they are facing and because of this we’re able to do more to help them."