Kenya: Undocumented refugees receiving support to meet basic needs

Recent data indicates that the number of refugees and asylum seekers in the Dadaab and Kakuma internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps has increased by 96,000 and 50,000 respectively. The total now stands at over 500,000, with numbers projected to continue rising due to the influx of refugees from countries such as Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Somalia, among others. The refugees are fleeing their countries due to the devastating effects of drought, while conflict in their homelands is also pushing them away from their homes.

The European Union (EU) provided support for an 8-month project called Kenya Cash Consortium – Locally-led Multi-Purpose Cash Response to crisis-affected communities in Kenya. The project aimed to address the food and basic needs of undocumented individuals in Kenya’s refugee camps. In the Dadaab refugee Complex, Acted partnered with the Relief, Reconstruction and Development Organization (RRDO), which is one of the partners under the Asal Humanitarian Network (AHN), to implement multi-purpose cash transfers to newly arrived families who lack assistance from other programs until they are fully registered.

A new lease of life: Starting a new chapter in a Refugee Camp

Aisha Daghalo* is 38 years old, a wife and a mother of four, seeking asylum from Somalia. She is a beneficiary of the cash transfer program, and at the time of joining, two of her children suffered from acute diarrhoea and were admitted to a local Hospital. Her husband who has disabilities and high blood pressure was also admitted with the children. She notes that living with such predicaments was tough, especially being a breadwinner of the home. “Life has been difficult. Having three meals a day for us was a pipe dream. I have been hawking firewood and washing clothes for people to put food on the table,’’ she says.


The only support she had previously received was assistance from other organizations that were irregular, and she could not depend on them. However, things began getting better for her when she was among the first beneficiaries to receive monthly cash transfers of KES 11,108 (the equivalent of 70 euros) for three months in the ongoing cash transfer program.


“When I first received the funds, I could not believe my eyes. Never in my life had I dreamt of handling such an amount of cash all at once, “she said beamingly. From the two cash cycles she has received, Aisha has been able to purchase the required necessities for her four children. “In the first cycle, I used the money I received to purchase food and clothing for my children. I also invested some of the money in buying a sheep. The money I received in the next cycle helped me pay for the hospital bills of my family members, who are still admitted. I also bought them essentials during my hospital visits. With the remaining amount of money, I purchased another sheep,” she added.

“I will continue investing part of the money I will be receiving from the remaining cycle because I know this program is for a short period. I could start a small business I am thinking about.” she concluded.


Zamzam Abdikadir* is a 40-year-old mother of 5 children and a registered beneficiary of the cash response program. She resides in Dagahaley at the Dadaab Refugee Complex after fleeing from Somalia to Kenya in February 2023 with her five children, 3 of them albinos. Her family faces segregation and stigmatization from the community because of these children. ‘’Having albino children has not been easy for me. We constantly face ridicule and discrimination from the community for having such children. We are always fearful to let them out of our sight and hence prevents me from working to support the family with basic needs,’’ she narrates. Under normal circumstances, she is always depressed over where their next meal will come from. In contrast, she happily heads her family, which has multiple needs. “This cash transfer program has truly changed my life positively. I bought mattress and clothes for my children, I’m able to purchase food monthly and sunscreen lotion for my albino children because they need it whenever they go out for madrasa and cater for their medication since albinism comes along with a lot of health challenges,” she added.


This program has been life changing for Zamzam since it has helped her prepare, prioritize, and address her family’s needs. “I know this program is for a short period of time, but I plan to open a small vegetable kiosk business outside my home. I have been saving from the amount of money that I have received from the last two cycles, to get enough capital for the business I plan to start,” she added.


*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the beneficiary

When individuals who have been displaced from their homes as refugees, they are often forced to abandon their belongings and can only take what they can salvage. This is due to the urgency and lack of time to pack everything they own. Additionally, they lose their ability to earn a living and spend money during this process. Cash-based interventions aim to protect refugees by reducing the risks they encounter and providing them with the means to purchase essential items.


This initiative, supported by the EU and executed by Acted and AHN partners (Oxfam, SND, RRDO, Aldef, Concern Worldwide, DCA, LOKADO, WASDA, PACIDA, RACIDA, NAPAD), offers a more considerate and honorable form of aid, allowing 1,122 refugee households to prioritize their requirements and make decisions accordingly. Through the provision of monetary transfers, individuals in need are less likely to resort to detrimental coping mechanisms such as engaging in survival sex, exploiting child labor, experiencing family separation, or being forced into marriages. Furthermore, these interventions yield a direct positive impact on the local economy and contribute to fostering peaceful coexistence with the host communities.

Aisha being interviewed
Aisha and her children in Dagahaley Camp
Zamzam being interviewed
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