Survive in the desert in northern Kenya

Original article in french : Tribune de Genève

Tribune de Genève, January 5 2015 - Development assistance UNHCR and NGOs such as Swisscontact, strive to train refugees.


Designed to accommodate 120,000 refugees, Kakuma camp in northwestern Kenya, home to 180 000.

The road made muddy by a sudden and torrential rain that runs along hundreds of shacks aligned, organized into blocks.Children begging for food. Adults, some at resigned look, just lift the eyes. With 180,000 refugees, Kakuma camp, which exists since 1992, is now one of the largest in the world. He is lost in the middle of nowhere. In a semi-arid region in north-western Kenya. 40 miles east of Uganda and a hundred kilometers south of South Sudan, from which almost half of the camp population.


When it is hot, it is very hot, the temperature can frequently exceed 40 degrees. When it rains, it rains hard. Winds are violent it. Disputes between communities also: in early November, the camp authorities have identified eight dead, following fights between different clans or tribes.


Y maintain peace and security is a major headache for UNHCR (High Commissioner for Refugees) as for the Kenyan state or Kyrielles of NGOs of doing this. Valentine Tibalemwa, Tanzanian UNHCR who runs the camp, bluntly summed up the situation: "We are sitting on a time bomb. We can not let these young unemployed men. "


Care for and train hoping to allow them to leave Kakuma with a professional background, Swisscontact - private foundation acting downstream of the Swiss development assistance - and a Norwegian organization set up training modules. Taking care to mix the races in order to reduce the risk of conflict and to invite Kenyans are also in the region, summarize Heinrich Lanz, president of Swisscontact and Veronique Su, director for East Africa.


Example? This sewing workshop that this newspaper was able to visit at the invitation of Swisscontact. The Somali Noor, 29, and alongside a Congolese the same age, Mauwa, and also wearing a cream colored opaque, Aloma, 32, a native of South Sudan. Everyone - including their teacher, the Congolese Amisi - wish they could later take some money from this activity. After training, they can take the sewing machine with which they learned this trade and open their little home studio.


Barter is king

A subsistence economy is organized in Kakuma and the surrounding area. Barter is king. Refugees trade some of their ration against firewood, brought by Kenyan villagers. The money also flows, especially from families back home.Refugees do the best they can, becoming repairers portable, cleaners, caterers, masons, carpenters, mechanics, motorcycle taxi drivers.


"Refugees are however not allowed to work outside the camp, says Karin Gruijl, spokesman for the UNHCR. Once trained, they can apply for scholarships to start small businesses.Unfortunately, loan applications exceed the available funds. "

If their project is more important, they can knock on the door of the Kenyan Equity Bank Financial Group, which has an office in the camp. But interest owed can then be substantial: between 18% and 20% of microcredit, 9.5% for the purchase of a vehicle.


The camp is a real city, other projects are emerging. UNHCR has an agreement with the company PWRstation, a SME in the United States and Switzerland in the field of solar stations.Their advantage: they are mobile, and can easily be moved."We sell them or offer with a leasing contract. The price of a station goes from 13 000 to 15 000 francs for the model to 5 kilowatts and up to 250,000 francs to the 100 kilowatts, "says Gianfranco Albertella, one of the officials, adding work "with local installers that we are so that they can then maintain the station. Almost as if it were a car. "


Kakuma has existed for over twenty years. Of the 180 000 refugees, many were born there, grew up there, it is sometimes formed. Have dreamed of leaving the camp. Try to survive elsewhere, beyond this dusty desert and semi-arid populated scorpions, windswept, white-hot by a scorching sun. (TDG)


About PWRstation Corp: Engineered in Switzerland, PWRstations are unique solar genset solutions for grid-tied and off-grid end-users. Its genset solutions address the ever growing need for hybrid, nano and micro grid technology, offering a versatile design which integrates well with diesel generators and storage, or when used in a grid-tied environment. Built locally by reputable manufacturers, PWRstation gensets are distributed globally via certified installers and OEM distribution partners. The ompany is based in Lausanne, Switzerland, with offices in Bienne, Switzerland and Miami, Florida.  


PWRstation is a member of Swiss Cleantech, and SEIA


For more information please visit: and follow the company on Facebook and Twitter. 


Media Contact:  Please contact PWRStation Corp. media division via email at


PWRstation Americas - USA & LATAM

Ludovic Roche

CEO Americas

The Lab 400 MW

26th Street 

Miami Fl 33127


Phone : +1 305 929 83 65

PWRstation SA - EMEA

Gianfranco Albertella 

Head of Operations EMEA

World Trade Center

Avenue Gratta-Paille 2

1018 Lausanne


Phone : +41 79 632 62 51