A clarion call for humanitarian social protection: From humanitarian aid to sustainable assistance in the Kakuma refugee camp

Alex Hunns and Francesco Iacoella, UNU-MERIT

As a result of physical, political and environmental volatility across East Africa and the Horn of Africa, Kenya is home to approximately 500,000 migrants seeking shelter from the vicissitudes of life in regions from South Sudan to Somalia. Two camps host most of Kenya’s refugee population: Kakuma in the arid Turkana District in the North East, and Dadaab adjacent to the Somali border in volatile Garissa. Both camps have been hosting refugees for approx. 26 years. In responding to the Kenyan migration situation – which may be characterized as protracted emergency relief – measures must be taken to ensure that human capital, agency and freedom are promoted, and that a path toward economic, civic and political inclusion is started. This study aims to contribute to the emerging theoretical and empirical literature that advocate for a switch from a “containment and charity” approach to one aimed at building capabilities and sustainable livelihoods. Using the case study of the Kenyan migration situation, we will propose a new approach to develop a sustainable future for refugees (especially those living in camps) based on social protection schemes that mimic the ones of the hosting country.



About the speaker

Alexander Hunns is a researcher for the United Nations University MERIT faculty in Maastricht, Netherlands. Most recently Alex worked as a Quality Assurance and qualitative research supervisor for a WFP/USDA research project in Malawi. The project sought to understand the impact of a school feeding programme operated in primary schools in 13 districts in Malawi. The project involved quantitative and qualitative research conducted over one month spent in the field. Previously Alex completed an evaluation of World Food Programme’s cash transfer project to refugees in the Kakuma, Kalobeyei and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya as part of an independent evaluation team. In Uganda, Alex is leading a research project seeking to understand the social and individual behavioural determinants of risky sexual behaviour among adolescent women in remote Kanungu District. Alex led the development of the proposal, the development of research tools and leading the research on the ground, overseeing a team of 40 enumerators. Alex is a co-author on a study presented at the Human Development and Capability Approach conference in Buenos Aires in August 2018. This work has also been selected for presentation at the Centre for Research Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities conference at Cambridge University in January 2018. This work examines the case for, and proposes a framework of, social protection in humanitarian situations.

Francesco Iacoella is a researcher at UNU-MERIT with an educational background in development economics, international relations and public policy. He has expertise in quantitative research and qualitative data analysis, and with CAPI software programming. During his Masters in Public Policy and Human Development at the United Nations University he specialized in risk and food security analysis, with a focus on conflict and humanitarian environments. At the end of his studies, he has worked as researcher and graduate teaching assistant at UNU MERIT. Francesco was part of a team evaluating the impact of a WFP school feeding programme in Malawi and of WFP cash-based transfer Kenya’s refugee camps. He has also conducted quantitative research on adolescent maternal health care, internally displaced children nutritional status, and inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa.



Venue: 0.16/0.17

Date: 05 December 2018

Time: 12:00 - 13:00


UNU-MERIT