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Kenya's Kakuma camp expands to accommodate South Sudanese

Flickr: UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

Kakuma camp in northern Kenya is expanding by almost half in order to accommodate refugees fleeing South Sudan. In the last two years alone, 44,000 South Sudanese have fled to Kakuma, pushing the camp to its limits.

RECAP ON THE ISSUE: In 1972, after years of conflict in Sudan, a peace deal provided the south some measure of autonomy. A decade later, the Sudanese government rejected autonomy arrangements, and the South, led by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), rebelled against the north in 1983. 22 years of guerilla warfare ensued, resulting in the death of at least 1.5 million people and the displacement of more than four million people. The conflict finally ended with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and in 2011 99% of southern Sudanese voted to split from Sudan, creating the world’s newest nation.

Just two years after its inception South Sudan was again plagued with conflict as a power struggle between the President and his former deputy played out. Notably President Salva Kiir is of the Dinka ethnic group, while former Vice President Riek Machar is of the Nuer ethnic group. In this latest conflict, thousands have been killed, and more than 1.5 million have been displaced.

Kakuma was originally set up to house the Lost Boys who fled South Sudan. If you’re unfamiliar with their story, check out this blog from the International Rescue Committee- their story is pretty fascinating.

Now, Kakuma houses around 185,000 people, mostly from South Sudan. The expansion should allow it to accommodate up to 80,000 more, while making things more comfortable for those who are already there.

While it’s important these camps exist to serve as a home to the homeless, it’s equally important the international community finds a way to get refugees in and out of the camps to permanent safe places as swiftly as possible so that people can have a chance to rebuild their lives. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. 24 year old Andrew Riek Wal has spent nearly half of his life in Kakuma, and says "Living this life of a refugee, it seems like I am in prison.”