Eastern Africa: Tackling environmental challenges in refugee camps
13 March 2009 | News story
Eastern Africa hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees whose survival is dependent on humanitarian aid and nature. Often cramped together on fragile land, the impact of high concentration of people on natural resources is considerable. While UNHCR provides food, nature provides firewood for the refugees.
In Kenya’s Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in Eastern Africa, the depletion of forest resources as a result of the large numbers of refugees has fuelled conflicts between refugees and the local, mostly pastoralist, communities. Shelter material provided to new arrivals is hardly enough and they often have to travel for days to cut trees for additional building material. Recognizing the need to address the problem, UNHCR - the UN Refugee Agency - is working with Partners throughout Eastern Africa to restore the environment and find sustainable solutions. However, environment falls outside the immediate humanitarian mandate and the scale of activities is small compared to the impact.
IUCN together with UNHCR recently brought together 40 participants from eastern Africa to discuss the challenges and strategies to ensure sustainable restoration of the environment in refugee, IDP and returnee areas.
“Let us not forget what we have learned during the past four days’ workshop. We assure you that we are going to do something. We are all burning to spread our wings and to make a case for environmental conservation,” said Siyad Shide, Programme Manager GTZ Kakuma.
Challenges range from limited conservation and restoration resources to mobilizing the communities to take greater ownership and initiative in environmental activities.
IUCN has been piloting in Sudan, Uganda and Kenya Community Environmental Management Planning together with UNHCR and Implementing Partners as a step to enhancing the sustainability of environmental activities in refugee and IDP hosting areas.
For more information, please contact:
• Caterina Wolfangel, Programme Officer Drylands, IUCN ESARO, Email: Caterina.Wolfangel@iucn.org, Tel: +254 20 890605/-12
• Grace Chepkwony, Communications Officer, IUCN ESARO, Email: Grace.Chepkwony@iucn.org, Tel: +254 20 890605/-12