The predominant fire incidents have brought worries to many of the block residents in the Camp.
In the months of January to February, more than 10 incidents of fire were reported throughout Kakuma refugee camp.
As opposed to last year, the first quarter of 2014 has experienced severe dust storms which were assumed to have led to several fire incidents within the camp’s residential blocks. In all the major cases of fire reported, a single house fire went sky-high out into the neighborhood, which was facilitated by strongly blowing sandy winds.
On the 18th February at around 2.30 pm at Kakuma 2 zone 1 block 6, a South Sudanese family house caught on fire and burnt to ash without any rescue.
Anger Dowel, a widow with three children, reportedly went to collect food rations earlier in the morning when her house caught fire destroying all her belongings. She stated that she was astonished to learn that the house she left behind was destroyed beyond recognition. Anger’s daughter aged two years was left alone while asleep at the moment of fire. Luckily, the minor survived with just a wound on her left arm and got treated at Clinic Five in Kakuma 3.
“My daughter survived, I spent about four hours in at the food distribution center, and then found the house I left was no more again,” Anger Dowel told Kanere at Kakuma 2.
“I was flabbergasted. I never imagined this could happen, I never lit the fire and we didn’t even cook a breakfast that day because there is no food in the house,” she explained.
According to the police official report seen by Kanere, the following items were burnt beyond recognition: Three bed sheets, one mattress, two blankets, three mats, two upper tents, one mosquito net, a Nokia phone valued at Ksh five thousand and hard cash of two thousand shillings which were in the house on the day of fire.
Anger’s husband was in the military in the Khartoum government and died in the war in 2010. As a South Sudanese Anger became very insecure after her husband’s death and that led her to flee to Kenya together with her three children, a son of five and daughters of four and two, the following year. According to Anger, she has spent a miserable life since her husband died, taking responsibility over her children and life in the camp.
Despite Anger’s efforts she could not establish the cause of the fire. Since the fire incident, the family are living in the open space originally the thatched roof house destroyed by fire. The UNHCR field units and partners are in charge of shelter provision but haven’t responded to the matter close to two weeks from the date of incident.
On the night of 17th January, at Kakuma 2 zone 1 block 9 at around 2 am two residential houses within the same compound caught on fire. The rapidly blowing night flames spread to the neighboring house from the rooftop, destroying a huge section of the building. The three household victims are from the Somali community and have complained to have lost a lot of property including assorted clothes, furniture and family documents. The cause of the fire could not be established.
In a separate incident, on the 14th January at around 4 pm at Kakuma 1 zone1 block 10, the house of a newly married Somali couple caught on fire that spread to seven other residential houses destroying an unknown value of property. The community intervention was very quick but the fire alert was sent by people screaming after fire had consumed the rooftops of the house. Hundreds of block members turned up with water and soil to put out the fire.
The residential block was a few meters away from the Jesuit Refugee Service Day Care Center known as the “Safe Haven,” whose fence was almost touched by the flames as the guards stood firmly to prevent the furious afternoon fire. The “Safe Haven” is a center that accommodates the victims of rape and other forms of Gender Based-Violence in camp.
The fire outbreak has resulted in huge losses of thousands of Kenyan shillings and property, and yet some are due to negligence by the victims in their domestic chores. Last December, three Somali children were burnt to death in a house fire at Kakuma 1 zone 1 block 4.
KANERE would like to advise the concerned humanitarian agencies to provide fire extinguishers to refugee communities to protect camp residents from these atrocities resulting from fire outbreak.