WASHINGTON - Residents of a Kenyan refugee complex, who said their camps lacked adequate water, shelter, health care and other necessities, say they have seen significant improvements since they aired the grievances three months ago.
VOA first reported on the situation at the three Kalobeyei camps in Kenya's Turkana County in late July. Inhabitants of the camps, many of whom are Ethiopian refugees, said that in addition to poor facilities, the camps were set up in isolated areas far from local markets and were not receiving sufficient attention from the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.
The UNHCR office in Nairobi denied the allegations.
Shelters, water tanks, schools added
But changes began in early September, Kalobeyei camp residents say. Improvements include better shelters, the installation of three water tanks and the construction of two primary schools.
Galgalo Arero is one of the refugees who witnessed the changes. "Kalobeyei might not be isolated anymore. Changes are real here, for now," he told VOA's Horn of Africa Service.
He ties the changes, in part, to the UNHCR opening an office in Kalobeyei I, one of the three camps. Previously, the closest UNHCR office was in the city of Kisumu.
"This helps the refugees from making more than 20 kilometer trips to follow their [immigration] cases; this is good," he said.
Many NGOs are also coming to the camps, including the World Food Program, according to Jamaal Dima, another Ethiopian refugee.
More changes in the works
Yvonne Ndege, a UNHCR senior communications officer in Nairobi, told VOA that the agency is working to improve education and vocational training at the Kalobeyei camps and is constructing maternity clinics, police stations and residencies.
"Construction of 304 permanent shelters is going on and 100 more shelters may be added before end of the year," she said.
UNHCR's permanent office in Kalobeyei is also nearing completion and will replace a temporary office that operates from the camp, she said.
Kenya hosts more than 500,000 refugees, most them from Somalia, South Sudan, and Ethiopia. The country has two main refugee camps, Dadaab and Kakuma. Kalobeyei was built to relive those two camps.
UNHCR promised residents who moved to the new complex that Kalobeyei would be an "integrated settlement," tied into the town of Kalobeyei. The residents say that with the recent changes, they have hope the complex will serve both residents and the town for years to come.