Kakuma Refugee Newsletter

February 2, 2009

HFP consultants are currently at the ICVA Secretariat in Geneva running a training simulation on collaboration for complex future crises.  Linda Polman, a Dutch journalist who recently authored a critical book on aid and humanitarian businesses called the Crisis Caravan (in Dutch), just dropped a minor bombshell about a grassroots blog and newspaper being published by refugees in the Kakuma refugee camp.

Their blog, found here, addresses a fantastic perspective of issues from the perspective of the camp’s residents. Blog posts include investigative journalism on lack of fair pair for work conducted, persistent water and security concerns, and reported threats and intimidation by camp administrators for speaking out on these issues.

The blog and newspaper has been causing some serious kinds of hair pulling within the UNHCR and is an absolutely fantastic example of citizen journalism, empowered by the web, completely changing the game of humanitarian business.

Well done Kakuma residents!!! Keep it up.  An interesting session at ICVA.

UPDATE 1 – A UNHCR official familiar with Kakuma who was at the conference expressed surprise about the situation in Kakuma and promised it would be looked into in more detail.  Curious to see what may develop from this.  We welcome any updates from anyone with information about this.

UPDATE 2 – Paul Currion over at humanitarian.info just wrote a very nice review about why the Kakuma Refugee Newsletter, is important in its larger context.  He writes:

First, it’s accountability in practice, a direct threat to business as usual for aid organisations. Second, it’s unmediated – exactly the sort of refugee voice that UNHCR won’t present at Davos. Third, it demonstrates how information empowers people – something that we’ve been talking about for ages but failed to put into practice. Extending information rights to beneficiaries – in this case, the residents of Kakuma Refugee Camp – is no longer optional, and this are just the beginnings of the next stage of growth for the aid industry.

Thanks Paul.  Imagine if each refugee camp had its own News Reflector…