Mental health cases on the rise in refugee camps

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Mental health cases are on the rise in refugee camps due to what a UN agency attributes to low resettlement rates this year.

The High Commissioner for Refugees says the low resettlement rates have been occasioned by Covid-19 which had delayed departures and halted relocation programmes.

“This is a blow to refugee protection and ability to save the lives of those most at risk,” according to Gilian Triggs, the UNHCR assistant commissioner for protection.

Humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders also says low resettlement could be among factors fuelling mental health crisis in refugee camps.

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It cites the Dadaab refugee complex where the number of attempted suicides is rising and psycho-social consultations have jumped by more than 50 per cent from last year.

The latest data shows that only 15,425 refugees were resettled between January and September this year compared to 50,086 in the same period last year.

For refugees previously in Dadaab, Kakuma and Nairobi, only 45 departed in September to different resettlement countries. 

Doctors Without Borders says: “We are witnessing a dramatic deterioration in the mental health of camp residents. In Dagahaley, one of the three Daadab refugee camps, psychological consultations have risen from 505 to 766 in the period of one year.” 

Some 6,816 refugees and asylum seekers have been registered in the country this year.

“We are dealing with a disappointingly low resettlement ceiling to begin with – a quota of less than 50,000 for the entire year. Current rates point to one of the lowest levels of resettlement witnessed in almost two decades,” Triggs says.

The UNHCR had planned the departure of 70,000 refugees for settlement this year.

However, in March, the agency suspended international resettlement departures except for the most critical emergency cases.

The UNHCR now wants the government to resettle as many refugees as possible before the end of the year.

As of September, Kenya had 447,141 refugees and 51,218 asylum seekers.

Dadaab hosts 44 per cent of the refugee population, Kakuma and Kalobeyei 40 per cent and urban centres 16 per cent.

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