Short Stories of Child Abuse in Kakuma Communities
Volume 1, Issue 4-5 / March-April 2009
A personal perspective on child abuse of unaccompanied refugee minors living in Kakuma Camp, written by KANERE’s youngest journalist, a 16-year old refugee boy who is himself an unaccompanied minor.
How children are abused in the adopted families
Adopted children have so many difficulties in the lives of their foster families. Their rights are ignored and broken because there is no one to look after their rights. In case of learning and studies, they do not have time to study because many foster children must take all household duties while other children have time to learn.
These children feel slighted by others, and they do not have time for playing or enjoying life with other children. They always get manifold works at home, and in the event of claiming their rights, they are punished. More often than not, these children do not eat the same food as other children. Even if they eat, they are never satisfied.
All these problems bring deep worries to foster children, to the point that they cannot grow up in good health as other children do. Consequently, some of these youth leave their foster homes and go elsewhere to look out for their own life. In those cases, some die, some become bandits, and others become drug addicts and thieves. They see that they are left behind because their parents were dead. This realization can cause some orphans to kill or hang themselves, and that causes so many problems in the human life.
It is true that LWF (Lutheran World Federation) Child Protection Unit is appointed to protect and monitor the safety of adopted children in Kakuma, but in my experience, they only protect something like 20 percent of the unaccompanied minors living in the camp. In my opinion, the program really neglects or forgets a good number of children who come as unaccompanied refugee minors. LWF Child Protection appoints caseworkers to monitor foster children in their homes, but in reality, the children are rarely visited after a foster arrangement is completed.
My own story
The above observations coincide with my own story in this camp. When I came here to Kakuma, I came without relatives. LWF Child Protection put me in a foster family, but then they left me permanently and I was never again visited by caseworkers. During this time, I was robbed of all my clothing, cooking supplies, jerry cans, and other items by a group of thieves. My foster parents tried to report the matter, but no action was taken. I was robbed again on three other occasions.
I also experienced great difficulty in going to school. LWF Child Protection appointed a person to take me to school, but he always hid from me until finally he told me that I can ask any person on the road to take me to school. When I heard that, I decided to take myself to school. Later, I came to ask for school books and no one gave me any, so I decided to ask my classmates.
I have also struggled with legal protection. All other minors have already received their refugee status determination decisions, but I continue to wait for feedback from UNHCR.
I struggle to collect food rations. The UNHCR appointed me (or rather, my ration card) to collect food rations at Food Distribution Centre Three, but I stay in Kakuma One which is located about eight kilometers from the Centre. I tried to report this issue to the Child Protection Unit so they could change my food distribution centre, but I never received a response. Up to now, I must travel a great distance to collect rations.
The distance traveled to Food Distribution Centre Three can actually be dangerous. I had a terrible experience when a policeman assaulted me on the way to take my rations. My foster parents went to report the issue to Child Protection Unit, but no action was taken. Until now, I have received no feedback.
Reflecting on all my experiences, I really cannot understand the role of Child Protection Unit or what they are supposed to do for problems like the ones I face. Apparently, the Child Protection staffs do not really take it as their duty to consider my well-being or protection. Now, if I encounter another problem apart from the past ones, I do not know who I will report to.
Abdi* is a young Somali boy who left his country because of insecurity. He has been in Kakuma Camp for ten years, but sometimes he cannot be found around the camp due to the many problems he faces. He joined his adopted family while living in Kakuma. His biological father died first in Somalia, and his mother died while in Kakuma. Here is his story.
“My name is Abdi, I’m a male of 15 years and my sister is 13 years old named Fatuma.* Our parents lost life years ago, and then we were adopted to our grandfather’s brother’s family.
“After the death of all our parents, all the family members had discussed a lot so that this family agrees to adopt us. The family members decided to give all our father’s inheritance so that my grandfather’s brother’s family agrees.
“On some certain days, all works were divided to us by the wife of our grandfather’s brother, and from there we started a hard life. My young sister is sickly as she was spoiled by our parents. Both of us were in pain, my young sister cried daily and became very skinny and thin. Even I was suffering from a bad knee and I could not work. But as it is, we did all works forced using a stick.
“In these ways, we suffered. Even the studies we left—we could not get a chance to learn as well as other children are learning. All these problems were caused by our grandfather’s brother’s wife because she wanted us to stay at home while she is going to the job. We were preparing food for lunch for the other children who were going to school. We could say nothing because we could be beaten.
“On a certain day, I met with some guys who were drug addicts and drinkers of alcohol. They introduced me and welcomed me into their group, where they told me that if only I drink and smoke, I would not have any stories of thinking about. They taught me also how to embezzle the things which are not mine. I enjoyed with them, even up to now, and I think that I will never leave them because they helped me a lot. Even my young sister also got advantage on it. I can’t really leave those guys because they save my life.”
How children who don’t have their mother suffer a lot
There are some children in our communities who do not have a mother. These children suffer a lot because the head of a house is always the mother, and everything in the house is in her charge. That creates trouble in families where some children are motherless, but live with their father who has married a new wife. These children are an object of all troubles.
The new wife will never like to see these motherless children growing up. She may suspect that they will go on to be the heir or heiress of their father’s goods or inheritances, so she may do anything necessary to stop this. She might also try to take them out of school so that they will not get knowledge and claim their property. She likes to hoard all the family goods for her own children. Therefore, see sees those other children as enemies.
In all cases, the new wife desires to protect her own children and to give hard work to the motherless children. Often, the motherless children have no voice in the house. All these conditions cause them to be powerless, unable to do anything to change their situation.
Those children feel like they are being thrown back, without hope. These problems bring some of them to drink alcohol, to smoke bhang, to do anything else to take them away from their thoughts. And in this way, others hang themselves.
James* is a Sudanese boy who left his country due to many problems of insecurity. He has lived in Kakuma Camp for six years now. His mother died and his father remarried while they were staying in Kakuma. Recently, he says he was invited to live with a Kenyan woman who told him she wants to help him. Here is his story.
“My name is James, and I’m a male of 17 years. My mother died when I was nine years old, and nine months later my father decided to marry a new wife who stayed in another community.
“One year later when my father’s wife wanted to give birth, her wish was to make me remain at home taking care of his baby while she was at her job. My father tried to focus on her, and later he allowed and from there I stopped going to school and remained home forever.
“Two years later, I took poisons twice, and she was the one who gave them to me hoping to kill me. But by the God’s mercy I was taken to the hospital and got medicine and felt well.
“My father himself tried to kill me because his new wife was talking to him that I wanted to rape her, but she hurried away. From there my father could not talk any word, but just took me and told me to leave home. All those stories were very, very wrong but my father took them as truth and that day I was very, very angry with them.
“Even some days later I tried to hang myself but some people came to my help and took me out of that rope. So now I’m always despaired of life because of being rejected even by my own father, and my mother is not alive. Now from there up to now, I never got anything about my father. In my life, I’m only like one who died.”
*Not their real names.