Refugees and local residents study, play and live together at Kalobeyei Integrated Refugee Settlement

By on 04/04/2019

Musician Sona poses with drumming troupe of Burundi refugees

Kalobeyei, Turkana West, Kenya March 2019 – Two months ago, strong winds blew down the flimsy white tent that Perine Nadai and her children had called home since fleeing fighting in South Sudan two years ago. They were left with just the dirt floor and a concrete slab for them all to sleep on.

“We just need to get our tent back,” said Perine who was breastfeeding her youngest. “We are fine to stay here otherwise although life isn’t easy.”

Kalobeyei Integrated Refugee Settlement was set up two years ago on a barren dusty land a few kilometres from the vast, better known Kakuma Refugee Camp. Kalobeyei Integrated Refugee Settlement, which is managed by the UN refugee agency UNHCR and the Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS) Kenya, in agreement with the Turkana County Government, is currently home to 38000 refugees and will house up to 45000 by 2022 when the first stage of the project ends –including refugees from South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Burundi among other countries, and people from the host community.

Local Turkana women share a laugh over a phone at the Kalobeyei community center, Kakuma.

At Kalobeyei Integrated Refugee Settlement, beyond the usual temporary shelters, neighborhood shared latrines, water pumps, food distribution centers and schools, there is a real focus on ensuring that the refugees and the host community from Turkana county come together. Kalobeyei New Settlement was conceived as a new type of solution for refugees where humanitarian emergency and sustainable development efforts work together to ensure better, long-term outcomes for both local populations and refugees.

“I am so impressed by the integration that you can see here,” said Gambian musician and virtuoso Kora player, Sona Jobarteh, who travelled to the camp with UN-Habitat to see the Agency’s work on shelters and public spaces in the camp. “This is something special.”

At the computer room within the community center in the settlement, designed and constructed in collaboration by UN-Habitat and AAR Japan, at the host community from the surrounding area and refugees sat together to learn computer skills.

“We work together and learn new skills and relax here,” said Rosaline Kaku who came from South Sudan with her three children.

Artist Sona inspects a prototype for a house to benefit host community and refugees in Kakuma

And at the UN-Habitat and AAR Japan-designed Public Space Playground and basketball court, a seating area designed under a tree attracts local residents and South Sudanese refugees to play a traditional pits and stones game with boards carved out of the concrete.

UN-Habitat says the area was developed in consultation with both local and refugees community, and in collaboration with the County Government.

Sona Jobarteh also looked at the various designs for more durable shelters for residents at Kalobeyei Integrated Refugee Settlement designed by renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and the Voluntary Architects’ Network. The shelter team for the programme had experimented with various designs using local materials and knowledge to create homes that are eco-friendly, require  low maintenance and are replicable.

Ten homes based on the final design, two timber frame structure filled with locally made bricks with a sheltered space between, including a green toilet system and cooking area are currently being made on site. The aim is to provide for shelters that are long-lasting and to support UNHCR’s implementation of 8000 shelters in the next five years with durable solutions.

“I would like to live in one of those houses,” said Perina, looking over wistfully at the new homes being constructed.” They have toilets inside, they are safe and the wind will not blow them away.”

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