Kakuma Refugee Camp, established in 1992, has this week surpassed its capacity of 100,000 refugees, the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
As of 31 July 2012, the camp population has reached 100,009 following a steady influx of new arrivals over the past two years; thus far in 2012 some 12,123 individuals have been registered in the camp, the majority having fled violence and conflict in South Sudan's Jonglei State and Sudan's South Kordofan. Significant numbers from Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have also sought asylum in Kakuma this year.
The threat of conflict in neighbouring countries, particularly Sudan and South Sudan, is expected to continue to drive asylum seekers toward Kenya for the remainder of the year and into 2013. Guy Avognon, UNHCR's Head of Sub-Office in Kakuma, has expressed concern about possible tension between camp residents and members of the local community due to the limited availability of water and other resources in the area.
The provision of life-saving assistance and important services is becoming increasingly difficult due to limited funding to cater for the growing population, particularly in the shelter, sanitation, education, and healthcare sectors. The sustained rate of new arrivals to the camp has already depleted all available land in the new settlement areas, and despite serious overcrowding in many parts of the camp, UNHCR and its partners is working to identify available space to settle new arrivals within existing settlements.
The increasing population is creating serious concerns for the operation as the boundaries of the camp cannot be extended further unless new sources of water are identified; since the beginning of the year efforts to supply sufficient quantities of clean, safe drinking water have become a critical challenge with refugees now receiving less than the standard 20 litres of water per person per day.
Discussions with the Kenyan government on the establishment of a second camp have been ongoing for the past year, but as yet no agreement has been reached though a potential site for a camp has been identified some 35 Kilometres from Kakuma.
UNHCR remains optimistic that discussions will be successful and that additional land will be made available before the end of the year. An estimated US$16.7 million would be required to set up a second camp, however, and considering UNHCR's current financial constraints this would likely also pose significant challenges for the operation.