471,330 (UNHCR, July 2018)
Number of refugees
49,699.862 (WPP 2017)
0.555 (UNDP)
Human development index
5.8% (World Bank)
GDP growth
11% (World Bank)
Unemployment rate



Kenya has been hosting refugees since 1970 with the numbers increasing significantly from 1990 onwards due to the influx of refugees from Somalia and South Sudan. Kenya currently hosts 471,330 [1] refugees making it one of the biggest refugee-hosting countries in Africa after Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia. The majority of the refugees originate from Somalia (54.4%) and South Sudan (24.3%) with the remainder from Democratic Republic of Congo (8.3 %), Ethiopia (6.7%), Sudan, Rwanda, Eritrea, Burundi and Uganda (6.3 % in total).

44% of the refugees in Kenya reside in Dadaab refugee camp in the East near the Somali border, 40 % live in Kakuma and Kalobeyei settlement in the North-West near the border with South Sudan and 16 % in urban areas (mainly Nairobi).

Towards a more comprehensive refugee response

Towards a more comprehensive refugee response

On 19 September 2016, all 193 Member States of the UN General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and its Annex I, the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).  The following day, at the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, the Government of Kenya committed [2] to:

  • enhance refugees’ self-reliance and inclusion in Kenya, specifically by pledging to support the development of the Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement to benefit refugees and residents of Turkana County
  • Facilitate the legal status for refugees with legitimate claims to citizenship and/or residency in Kenya through marriage or parentage
  • Implement the “Guidelines on Admission of Non-Citizens to Institutions of Basic Education and Training in Kenya,” which will facilitate school enrollment of refugees and other non-citizens in Kenyan schools.

Application of comprehensive responses

Building on the pledges made by the Government at the Leaders’ Summit, the formal application of the CRRF in Kenya was announced following the 68th Session of UNHCR’s Executive Committee in October 2017. Among the progressive steps that followed the formal announcement as CRRF country is the inclusion of refugees in the draft County Integrated Development Plans (CIDP) of Turkana and Garissa; and the eligibility missions hosted for the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) 18 sub-window for refugees. The new UN Development Assistance Framework 2018-2022 (UNDAF) for the first time fully integrates refugees and stateless persons as target populations of the Plan.

In addition to applying comprehensive responses to refugee movements inside its borders, Kenya has played a pivotal role in regional efforts to pursue a common approach for the Somali refugee situation.  In March 2017, the Government hosted the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) Special Summit on the protection and durable solutions for Somali refugees and reintegration of returnees in Somalia, where all IGAD Member States adopted the Nairobi Declaration on Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees and Reintegration of returnees in Somalia (also known as the Nairobi Declaration). Kenya participated in IGAD’s first inter-ministerial thematic meeting with a focus on Education, where IGAD Member States adopted the Djibouti Declaration on Regional Refugee Education, committing to refugee inclusion in national systems across the region by 2020. In March 2018, Kenya’s Refugee Affairs Secretariat which acts as the focal point for the CRRF roll-out in Kenya, shared the draft of its national action plan to implement the Nairobi Declaration as part of the CRRF Road Map. The draft CRRF Road Map is currently subject to internal consultations within various line ministries and national and county authorities. Building on the IGAD’s Djibouti Declaration on regional refugee education (December 2017), the Ministry of Education is also developing a Refugee Education Inclusion Policy. The whole of society –approach is actively applied to the CRRF in Kenya with a broad number of stakeholders actively engaged, as witnessed during the recent workshop organized by civil society in May 2018.[3]

Latest developments

  • For the first time, the Turkana and Garissa County Integrated Development Plans will include refugees

The draft Turkana and Garissa County Integrated Development Plans, which guide all development activities in Turkana and Garissa County for the period 2018-2022, now include refugees.  If adopted by the county assemblies later in June, this will set a precedent for greater inclusion of refugees in development plans, in the spirit of comprehensive responses.

  • Refugees included in planning for Kenya’s new UN Development Assistance Framework 2018-2022

In line with the CRRF approach, and based on the “leave no one behind’ principle, UNHCR ensured along with the participation from Refugee Affairs Secretariat and other stakeholders, that the status and needs of the refugee population, the refugee hosting population, stateless persons and migrants were reflected in the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) 2018-2022 that was finalized in June 2018. The UN translated the consultative process and its guiding principles – utilizing UN mandates and comparative advantage – to develop a framework that feeds into the Sustainable Development Goals, Kenya’s Vision 2030 and the Big Four agenda. This is also in line with the Government’s Medium Term Plan (MTP) III and the strategic direction of UN Country Team. Interventions for the persons of concern are reflected under respective outcome areas which mirror various activities implemented at sectoral level by UNHCR and partners

Key partnerships

The World Bank is among key partners to support comprehensive responses in Kenya. The already ongoing Kenya Displacement Response Development Initiative Project (KDRDIP) in the refugee hosting counties is funded through a loan of $100 million to the Government for a period of five years which supports the host communities through a community driven development approach that is complementary to UNHCR programmes in Dadaab and Kakuma.

In line with the objective of CRRF “improving refugee self-reliance” approach, UNHCR Kenya continues to engage with the Private Sector including MasterCard, Google, Vodafone, Safaricom, Kenya National Chamber of Commerce,  Kuza Biashara and Equity Bank in seeking innovation and inclusion for refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya. Under the partnership with Equity Bank, refugees in Kalobeyei settlement are being provided with cash which is enabling families to fulfil their permanent shelter needs in a more dignified manner. Equity uses a wallet debit card, which is being considered the best solution in terms of characteristics and potential opportunities vis-a-vis current and future cash based transfer system. The card was introduced and continues to be used in commercial partnership with Equity Bank such as providing financial services to refugees engaged in business or entrepreneurship in both Kakuma camp and Kalobeyei settlement. The bank is participating in this programme of cash assistance through which the refugees can transact across the country with Equity Agents, ATM machines, and over the counters.

UNHCR and the World Bank are working together on data collection and research to facilitate evidence-based decision-making towards greater economic inclusion of refugees. The World Bank report “Yes in my backyard? The economics of refugees and their social dynamics in Kakuma, Kenya” (December 2016) analyses the economic and social impact of refugees on the host communities in Kakuma refugee camp and, based on the positive economic impact of refugees in the area, makes the case for the socio-economic inclusion of refugees.

In follow up, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and UNHCR launched the study “Kakuma as a Marketplace” on 4 May 2018. The study found that Kakuma’s economy is worth $56 million dollars annually based on consumer spending. Kakuma’s population size combining refugees and hosts is equivalent to Kenya’s tenth largest city, with a vibrant informal economy. It is hoped that the study will support continued evidence-based engagement by various stakeholders, in transforming refugee assistance in Kenya for mutual benefit of both refugees and host communities. In this connection, the IFC to announce an allocation of US$20 million for the Kakuma-Kalobeyei Challenge Fund (KKCF) that will benefit social entrepreneurs and local entrepreneurs including refugees and the host community. The fund is expected to be launched in the second half of 2018.

Contact persons for the CRRF in the UNHCR Office in Kenya:

Ivana Unluova:, Mans Fellesson: and Salwa Asmat:


[1] As of  July 2018.

[2]Please see the overview document of the Leaders’ Summit pledges here and in the IGAD Annex.

[3]“Understanding and maximizing the whole-of-society approach for the CRRF roll-out in Kenya”, workshop organized by the Refugee Consortium of Kenya and the International Council of Voluntary Agencies in Nairobi, 17 May 2018 attended by the Kenyan Government and fifteen NGOs from the region (Kenya, Djibouti, Somalia and Uganda).

Operational and funding needs to deliver on a comprehensive refugee response

Funding: The UNHCR Kenya Operation requires USD 191.1 million for its refugee response in 2018.

20% has been funded thus far.

Resettlement needs: 4,500 planning figure in 2018




Get all the latest news straight to your email inbox


View all highlights


CRRF poster - Africa, August 2018

Chad Djibouti Ethiopia Kenya Rwanda Somali Situation Zambia Uganda | Africa dashboard
31.94 KB

This poster provides an overview of key developments in the African countries that are applying comprehensive refugee responses.

Published: 6 May, 2018 (2 weeks ago )
Uploaded: 6 May, 2018 (2 weeks ago )

CRRF Global Update, June 2018

Belize Central America and Mexico Chad Costa Rica Djibouti Ethiopia Guatemala Honduras Kenya Mexico Panama Rwanda Somali Situation Uganda Zambia | CRRF external global updates
31.94 KB

This monthly document summarizes key developments in the application of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) in Africa and the Americas.

Published: 6 May, 2018 (3 weeks ago )
Uploaded: 6 May, 2018 (3 weeks ago )

CRRF poster - Africa, June 2018

Chad Djibouti Ethiopia Kenya Rwanda Somali Situation Uganda Zambia | Africa dashboard
31.94 KB

This poster provides an overview of key developments and next steps in the African countries that are applying the CRRF.

Published: 6 May, 2018 (2 months ago )
Uploaded: 6 May, 2018 (2 months ago )

CRRF poster - Africa, May 2018

Africa Djibouti Ethiopia Kenya Somali Situation Uganda Zambia East Africa Rwanda | Africa dashboard
31.94 KB

This poster provides an overview of key developments and next steps in the African countries that are applying the CRRF.

Published: 6 May, 2018 (3 months ago )
Uploaded: 6 May, 2018 (3 months ago )

"Yes in my backyard? The economics of refugees and their social dynamics in Kakuma, Kenya", December 2016, International Finance Corporation

Kenya | Studies and reports
31.94 KB

This report comes at a crucial time when the unprecedented global refugee crisis, most notably in Europe and the Mediterranean, has not only focused the world’s attention on the plight of refugees, but has also led to the politicization of refugee influxes. With an average of 24 people worldwide being displaced from their homes every minute of every day (UNHCR 2016), the debate surrounding the refugee crises is on the minds of many, ranging from governments and policy-makers to citizens, refugees, and host communities alike. This report provides an original analysis of the economic and social impact of refugees in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp on their Turkana hosts, comes at an opportune time and could resonate with governments and policy makers beyond Kenya’s borders. In particular, the methodology authors have developed enables us to run policy scenarios in a rigorous manner, ranging from encampment to decampment (i.e. camp closure) scenarios, and the potential to apply this methodology in other refugee situations around the world is particularly advantageous.

Published: 6 May, 2018 (4 months ago )
Uploaded: 6 May, 2018 (4 months ago )

View all documents