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A women shopping at a market in Kakuma refugee camp © R Bradenbrink

Refugee debt and livelihoodsVittorio Bruni, Patrick Mutinda Muthui, Cory Rodgers and Olivier Sterck have co-authored a new report from the Refugee Economies Programme on ‘Refugee Debt and Livelihoods in Northern Kenya’.  This report looks at how debt is used as a coping strategy by refugees in Kakuma refugee camp and the Kalobeyei settlement, which, together, constitute one of the largest refugee camps in Africa, hosting more than 270,000 refugees in October 2023.

The report highlights that the debt situation in Kakuma and Kalobeyei is complex and multi-layered. Key findings include:

  • refugees remain highly dependent on humanitarian assistance;
  • 87% of households are indebted to a food retailer;
  • debt levels have increased dramatically since 2019;
  • lack of livelihood opportunities, low levels of assistance, increasing prices, aid delays, aid cutbacks, and shocks all play a role in the creation and continuation of debt;
  • implicit interest rates push refugees into a debt trap.

Read the report here.