Kitale refugee centre in crisis as child starves to death

Kitale Refugee Centre

This photo taken on April 27, 2023 shows refugees at a transit center in Kitale, Kenya. 

Photo credit: Xinhua

The Refugee Transit Centre in Kitale has been hit by a crisis after a child starved to death following days of lack of food.

The three-year-old minor died on Monday night, a Kenya Red Cross official confirmed.

It happened as the number of refugees coming in from Uganda continued to rise.

Nation.Africa learned that the child, a Congolese, died after getting weak due to lack of food at the strained facility.

Refugees have decried poor conditions at the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) Kitale showground where they are camping.

Red Cross County chairman Ronald Masindano said there is a serious humanitarian crisis and the refugees need urgent food support and medical attention.

Confirming the child’s death, he said the camp is faced with serious challenges in accommodating the refugees, including space and food constraints, and medical support, especially for mothers and children.

The refugees said they fled to Kenya because they were facing a humanitarian crisis in Uganda where they had no access to necessities like food, medication, and water despite having their details captured for assistance.

“Some of the officials at Kiryandongo Settlement Refugee Camp used to take advantage of situations to enrich themselves while we were left to survive on our own. We had to seek new refuge in Kenya,” claimed Ms Kapou who is from Goma Congo.

Refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) fled from clashes between the M23 and the Congolese army in the Kivu region, while those from Burundi are fleeing politically instigated violence.

Mr Msindano called on the government to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to assist process movement permits for the refugees who evaded their camps in Uganda.

UNHCR is a United Nations agency mandated to aid and protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people, and to assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration, or resettlement to a third country.

“These refugees ran away from their camps in Uganda and are stuck here. They can neither go back to Uganda nor proceed to Kakuma Refugee Camp due to lack of legal travel permit," said Masindano.

He added: “Generally the group is very vulnerable and needs urgent support. We have many sick children here who need medical attention."

Some of the refugees told Nation.Africa that many of their relatives are also on the way running from Uganda due to poor conditions at the camps.

Kenya Red Cross County coordinator Ruth Mining’wo said the centre is financially constrained in supporting the increased numbers of refugees, with lack of food being a threat to their survival.

Leaders in Trans Nzoia county have called on UNHCR to ensure refugee camps in Uganda have humane conditions to offer asylum to refugees fleeing war-torn Congo and Burundi.

Ms Miningwo said at least 8,468 refugees have been received at the Kitale transit centre in Western Kenya since January.

"We are receiving between 600 and 800 refugees weekly, and since January we have had over 8,000 arrivals. Women and children form 60 percent of the families," she said, adding that the transit centre can hold about 200 people, while the new waves of arrivals have overstretched it.

The Kenya Red Cross official said the majority of the refugees are from the DRC and Burundi, and a few are from Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan.

Kiminini MP Kakai Bissau said many of the refugees who have escaped from refugee camps in Uganda are stranded and facing several challenges.

"UNHCR must ensure that the refugee camps in Uganda offer essential needs to the refugees who have sought asylum in the country. It is worrying that most of them are fleeing their camps to seek asylum in Kenya,” he said.