Terre des Hommes Netherlands team (represented by Magdalene Muoki, the Kenya Country Manager, Dennis Ratemo, Programme Manager and Grace Oduor, Senior Regional Communications Officer) together with the Terre des hommes (Tdh) Terre des Hommes Foundation team (represented by Celine Beaudic, the Country Representative and Elena Lavin, the Head of Programs) took part in the ECHO Project field visit in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya on Monday, 8 November 2021. The purpose of the field visit was to gain an understanding on the existing child exploitation risks to inform targeted programming. The team had an amazing opportunity to learn from and interact with various key stakeholders who have worked collaboratively to enhance protection, prevention and response for the most vulnerable children in Dadaab refugee camps (camps hosting refugees and asylum seekers).
The visit started off with the team meeting with the Deputy County Commissioner, Dadaab Sub-county, who expressed gratitude for the work being done in the area to help unaccompanied, separated and vulnerable children in Ifo, Hagadera and Dagahaley camps.
With the potential exploitation risks faced by children as a result of drought & insecurity within the region, the Commissioner appreciated the joint collaboration and significant efforts being made to ensure that the project continues to impact more lives. From the meeting, the Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS) also shared an update that from the just concluded verification exercise, the number of refugees stood at 269,122.
The team had an interactive first session with foster parents/ caregivers and their foster children. The foster parents, who volunteer to take in and care for unaccompanied children in the refugee camps, expressed gratitude for the support they have received from the project, funded by ECHO.
Most of them stated that they have received different kinds of support including psychosocial support (PSS), food vouchers, education support (school uniforms, books) and foster parenting skills training that has enabled them to take care of the children and cope with the role as caregivers. They also appreciated the monitoring and follow-ups done by the project team members on a regular basis.
Discussing their challenges, some foster parents expressed the concern of the discrimination and stigma they face within the community as a result of the role they have taken up. They are labelled and profiled as those taking care of unaccompanied minors (UAMs) without parents. The children also face stigmatisation even in school, and in some extreme cases, once they grow older, they have no choice but to go back home to their country where they are more accepted.
Recommendations from Foster parents: They recommended that TdH NL supports them to establish (Income Generating Activities (IGAs). One foster parent with a disability requested if they can be given the monthly cash support in lump sum (a few months combined) to aid them to start off IGAs. She stated, “I am the most vulnerable foster parent and refugee in the camp as I am not able to work.' She underscored the need for economic empowerment for foster parents and other needy caregivers in the camps.
The second session involved discussions with community leaders, representatives from the child welfare committee and children assemblies. The various individuals play a critical role in protecting and promoting the wellbeing of children.
They assist in resolving disputes that are hard to be resolved in a family setting, identity, address and refer cases to the project team, and other relevant actors as well as sensitise parents on the importance of education.
Speaking on the significant changes realised as a result of project initiatives, the participants present highlighted that: community-based initiatives around child protection have been formed, child rights clubs have been initiated, the capacity of community members to protect children has been enhanced and community participation strengthened with change in perceptions and attitudes especially on gender equality. Now, both boys and girls are equally encouraged to actively take part in activities such as sports for protection.
During the Q&A session, some of the participants expressed the need for additional economic support, saving groups as well as trainings on child labour and trafficking response. Children also expressed the need for training to help them provide guidance, education and mentorship to their peers.
From the session, the following were highlighted as the prevailing protection concerns
Recommendations from the session
To wrap up the visit, the team met with Terre des hommes (Tdh) staff in charge of the child protection help desks and the case management team in Dagahaley Camp. They work together to identify, refer and manage cases of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, children out of school or at risk of dropping out of school, children engaged in labour, victims of violence including harmful cultural practices, unaccompanied minors and unregistered children. They conduct the follow-ups and close the case when the protection concern has been addressed.
From the caseworkers session, the following was documented:
Overall, the field visit was a critical successful event that provided the team with an opportunity to learn, reflect and listen to stories of success from the various stakeholders on how the project has impacted them and listen to their insights on how they feel they could be further supported to improve their lives in the camps.
Terre des Hommes Netherlands remains committed to building the resilience of the key actors, addressing the gaps/challenges faced and continuing with the great work of providing emergency aid and protection to the most vulnerable children facing exploitative situations.