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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Camp survival

Refugee program works on shoestring budget

When Rebecca, Helen and John lived at the Kakuma [Kenya] Refugee Camp they were among more than 5,000 mostly Sudanese children whose parents were killed or lost during the civil war.

This arid, desolate stretch of land at Kakuma is home to more than 69,000 Sudanese, Somali and other refugees. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees asked the Lutheran World Federation to take over camp management in 1992.

John and his sisters said there was frequent violence, substance abuse and inadequate medical care. But thanks to Lutheran World Relief, they had fairly regular meals.

"The children in the camp face numerous problems," says Peter Muturi, LWF's desk officer for the Kakuma program. "This, combined with the trauma of dislocation and family breakup, contributes to a sense of worthlessness."

To help, Muturi says staff provide counseling and community activities, including worship, sports, art, drama and debating. Rebecca and Helen sang in a choir and played on the volleyball team.

At Kakuma's school, students learn English, Swahili and Kenyan history, but most instruction is from books since computers and science equipment aren't available. Muturi says the camp offers vocational training to help minors become self-reliant.

But camp services have been reduced to "those of bare survival," Muturi says. He cites two causes: The Kenyan government discourages integration of the refugees into the country and funding from the financially strapped United Nations has dropped over the past three years.

This year the camp has received only one-third of its $400,000 budget. To help, the ELCA Division for Global Mission provided $100,000 this spring and the ELCA World Hunger Appeal sent $15,000.


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