Kenya Unveils Marshal Plan to Shift from Aid Dependency to Refugee Self-Reliance and Development

Kenya launched a Marshal Plan National Steering Committee of 18 Principal Secretaries to come up with the Refugee Marshal plan on 9th May 2023. The Marshal Plan is a shift in refugee policy from aid-dependency to refugee self-reliance and development.

The Principal Secretary for the State Department of Immigration and Citizen Services, Amb. Prof. Julius Bitok speaking during the unveiling the National Steering Committee at Villa Rosa Kempiski Hotel Nairobi.

This new approach to refugee management aims to promote self-sufficiency and development, and transition from the current protracted refugee camps to integrated settlements where refugees and members of host communities can live side by side and benefit from inclusion in national services. The plan seeks to facilitate the shift from a humanitarian-led approach to a more comprehensive, sustainable, and development-oriented approach to managing refugees and supporting host communities.

According to the PS for the State Department of Immigration and Citizen Services, Amb. Prof. Julius Bitok, over 577,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers are hosted in Kenya, with the majority residing in the refugee camps of Dadaab and Kakuma and a small percentage in urban areas. Kenya has been hosting refugees from various parts of the world, including the Great Lakes region, the Horn of Africa, and Eastern Africa among others, for more than three decades. However, the current protracted refugee situation has left refugees living in crisis for three decades, with no lasting solution in sight.

“The Marshal Plan should take into account the host communities. It should have an approach on conflict management, peace-building and address challenges associated with climate change. I also underscore the need to consider security challenges and address them comprehensively,” said Dr. Raymond Omollo, the PS for Interior who had also attended the event.

The Plan, which builds on existing frameworks and initiatives, such as the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), the Support for Host Community and Refugee Empowerment (SHARE) also called Kenya Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework(CRRF), and the Kenya’s pledges at the Global Refugee Forum in 2019, takes into account Kenya’s Vision 2030 and the SDG 2030. It will operationalize IGAD declarations on durable solutions for Somali refugees and reintegration of returnees, refugee education, jobs, livelihoods, and self-reliance for refugees, returnees, and host communities, as well as refugee and cross-border health initiatives.

“The Marshal Plan’s main objectives are to facilitate the gradual transition from the refugee camp management model to integrated settlements, ease the pressure on the country as a refugee host, facilitate the transition of refugee basic service delivery from a humanitarian-led approach to government-led systems, and promote refugee and host community socio-economic inclusion for enhanced self-reliance and resilience,” said the PS Bitok when he officially launched the process.

To achieve these objectives, the Marshal Plan calls for greater international support to Kenya as a refugee host country. The plan emphasizes capacity building for the government of Kenya to handle refugee influxes and protracted refugee cases, in the spirit of burden-sharing. The plan also seeks to support durable solutions for refugees and asylum seekers.

The key stakeholders in the Marshal Plan shall include the national government through several ministries and departments, UNHCR and other UN agencies/programs, development partners, the private sector, INGOs, NGOs, refugees, and host communities. The Ministry of Interior and National Administration through the State Department of Immigration and Citizen Services will lead the national government’s efforts, while the other ministries will also be involved in providing the required specialized support.

Speaking during the event, the UNHCR Country Representative Madam Caroline Van Buren said that development action and financing are central to a whole-of-society approach to enhance policy dialogue, expand service delivery, and boost economic opportunities for refugees and host communities. “Our partnership with the government in finding comprehensive and dignified solutions to refugee management continues to be cordial and productive,” she added.

The PS for Public Health, Dr. Josephine Mburu, implored on everyone to help ensure more surveillance on some diseases such as polio and TB in Kakuma and Dadaab, where they are most prevalent due to the presence of refugees. She asked the National Steering Committee to plan for refugees’ health in the Marshal Plan and that of host communities, stressing that universal health cover for both is required. “There is need for all stakeholders to work together to improve the health outcomes for refugees and host communities. Do not leave anyone behind. The private sector and international partners need to be involved in supporting Kenya’s efforts in this regard” emphasized Dr. Mburu. She also highlighted the importance of addressing other health challenges, including mental health, sexual and reproductive health, and non-communicable diseases, among others.