Africa

LGBTI refugees in Kenya: Food cutback, new security plan

Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where most Ugandan refugees are held (Photo courtesy of Ephemerian)

Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where many LGBTI Ugandan refugees are held (Photo courtesy of Ephemerian)

In the wake of their miles-long trek last month from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, LGBTI Ugandan refugees returned to the camp with a few offers of future help. Soon after their return, the whole camp was hit by a cutback in food distribution.

LGBTI refugees trek to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees

LGBTI refugees trek to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees

The trekkers had sought protection from other refugees’ homophobic hostility and relief from the camp’s harsh conditions.

An LGBT refugee after a recent altercations with Kenyan authorities at the camp (Photo courtesy of O-blog-dee and Facebook)

An LGBTI refugee after a recent altercations with Kenyan authorities at Kakuma Camp (Photo courtesy of O-blog-dee and Facebook)

In response to their initiative, LGBTI refugees reported, UNHCR staffers and the Refugee Affairs Secretariat held several meetings with them and agreed to make some changes, including a new protection strategy for LGBTI refugees that would be developed in coordination with the refugees and implemented “in due time.”

Planned changes include assigning different personnel to work with the LGBTI community, adding and restoring security fences, and providing social support.

Officials did not agree to a request for a letter authorizing the LGBTI refugees to flee from Kenya and seek asylum elsewhere.

On Oct. 2, the U.N.’s World Food Program announced that it was running short on funds, so it cut food distributions by 30 percent — a move that came just six months after the WFP had ended an earlier food cutback. Refugees claimed that the latest cut was actually 50 percent. The WFP announced:

Annalisa Conte, country director for the World Food Program in Kenya: "We are facing a critical shortage of resources." (Photo courtesy of the WFP)

Annalisa Conte, country director for the World Food Program in Kenya: “We are facing a critical shortage of resources.” (Photo courtesy of the WFP)

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) will cut food rations by 30 percent for the 420,000 refugees in living in Dadaab and Kakuma camps in northern Kenya due to insufficient funding.

“We are facing a critical shortage of resources which has compelled us to reduce the amount of food given to the refugees only six months after we resumed full rations,” said WFP Representative and Country Director Annalisa Conte. “WFP urgently needs US$28.5 million to adequately cover the food assistance needs for the refugees for the next six months.”

The cutback is particularly hard on the LGBTI refugee community, refugees said, since most of them have no jobs because of anti-LGBTI discrimination and lack of security.

They said this was the monthly food and soap distribution before the cutback:

  • Sorghum, 3 kilograms
  • Peas, 1 kilogram
  • Soap, 1 piece.
  • Cooking oil, 1 liter.

The WFP stated:

Logo of the U.N. World Food Program

Logo of the U.N. World Food Program

WFP provides food assistance to refugees in Kenya as a combination of food (cereals, pulses, vegetable oil, and nutrient-enriched flour) and cash transfers sent via mobile phones used to buy fresh food items from local traders.

Starting this month, WFP will reduce the share of food while keeping the cash transfers unchanged. Overall, refugees living in Dadaab and Kakuma camps will receive a food ration equivalent to 70 percent of their requirements.

In addition, WFP will not provide fortified flour to the general population as the low stocks remaining will be prioritized for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers through health clinics. This may lead to a rise in levels of malnutrition among the refugees.

“Cutting rations is a last resort and we hope that it is only a short-term measure as we continue to appeal to the international community to assist,” said Conte. “An abrupt halt to food assistance would be devastating for the refugees, most of whom rely fully on WFP for their daily meals.”

WFP has provided food and cash to refugees this year thanks to the generosity of donations from Canada, China, the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), Germany, Hungary, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

LGBT refugees reached out to supporters, seeking further assistance, especially for food. The U.S-based African Human Rights Coalition continues to raise money to help them.  The AHRC fund drive is HERE, with U.S. tax-deductible sponsorship provided by the Social Good Fund.

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