News from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Denmark, Kenya, and Three Philanthropic Foundations Shape the Future of Refugee Aid


Two out of three refugees experience prolonged humanitarian crises lasting several years, often even decades. Meanwhile, refugee camps have traditionally been designed and run as temporary solutions for acute crises. A new partnership between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the LEGO Foundation, Novo Nordisk Foundation, and Grundfos Foundation supports Kenya's ambitions to move away from a temporary approach, benefiting both refugees and local communities.

Today, Danish Minister for Development Cooperation and Global Climate Policy Dan Jørgensen and representatives from the three major Danish foundations visited Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya to launch a new collaboration on the future of refugee aid with Kenyan authorities. 

The partnership between the three foundations and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs aims to support Kenya's efforts to create a more sustainable approach to the protracted refugee situation. The initiative will run for three years and amounts to more than 70 million USD, which among other things will provide support for strengthening local Kenyan authorities and improving health and education for refugees and the local population.

"Humanitarian efforts and aid organizations do invaluable work worldwide. However, in the long run, a humanitarian approach to prolonged displacement crises isn't the solution. Building a parallel society for refugees doesn’t benefit them or the local communities. Instead, we should focus on strengthening host countries, ensuring that local schools and healthcare services are robust enough to support both refugees and locals. We believe this is possible in Kenya," says Dan Jørgensen.

In 2021, Kenya passed a progressive law that provides for integration of refugees into Kenyan society. The Kenyan government is currently moving forward with a new plan, called the Shirika Plan. The philosophy is that refugee camps should be seen as local towns, where schools and health clinics are eventually operated by the local municipality instead of the UN or NGOs.

“Our new Refugees Act of 2021 creates the legal foundation for refugees in Kenya to become more self-reliant and for local authorities to provide better services for refugees and host communities alike. We appreciate the support from our Danish partners for our efforts to create a new and better refugee response that also can inspire others,” says His Excellency Governor of Turkana County, Jeremiah Lomurukai Napotikan.

“Today, we are presenting a unique model in which three Danish foundations, in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are joining forces with the Kenyan government to ensure long-term, sustainable solutions for some of the world's most vulnerable people. Each of us brings unique strengths and expertise to the collaboration, and this multifaceted approach is necessary given the complexity of the challenges we face. Together, we can make a significant difference, and that is why we, from the foundations' side, are proud to support this long-term effort,” says Sidsel Marie Kristensen, CEO of the LEGO Foundation, who visited Kakuma along with Flemming Konradsen, Senior Vice President of the Novo Nordisk Foundation, and Kim Nøhr Skibsted, CEO of the Grundfos Foundation.

By combining resources and expertise from the state and private foundations, the collaboration will support Kenya's efforts to create more sustainable solutions for refugees in the Kakuma refugee camp. Each partner brings unique skills to the table. The LEGO Foundation's experience in education, the Novo Nordisk Foundation's expertise in health, and the Grundfos Foundation's experience with water programs will be used to strengthen local schools, healthcare, and water supply.

285,000 refugees side by side with Kenya's poorest

Kenya is the fifth-largest refugee-hosting country in Africa with over 770,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers—a number expected to rise to 800,000 by 2025, according to UNHCR. Most live in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya's northwestern Turkana County and in Dadaab near the Somali border.

The Kakuma refugee camp, established in 1992, is home to more than 285,000 refugees and asylum seekers from over 20 countries—mainly from South Sudan, Somalia, DR Congo, Burundi, Uganda, and Rwanda. The influx is driven by conflict, persecution, and the effects of climate change.

When the camp was established, it was meant to be temporary. At that time, the camp had only a few thousand residents. Today, the camp still stands and has become an entire community with markets, schools, and health clinics.

Kakuma is a typical example of the development of many refugee camps. They become permanent. Refugees cannot return home and cannot be resettled. This creates enormous challenges because refugee camps are originally designed to be temporary. Everything from healthcare and education to clean drinking water and infrastructure is established without a long-term plan and is operated by the UN and international organizations instead of local authorities.

The refugee camp is located in an area of Kenya where poverty is widespread. Turkana is the poorest of Kenya's 47 counties, with nearly 88% living below the poverty line. The vast area is marked by a lack of access to water and food insecurity, worsened by recurring droughts and floods.

The Alliance Between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Danish Philanthropic Foundations

The collaboration between the Danish state and the three philanthropic foundations will focus on creating more sustainable solutions for refugees in Turkana by integrating them better in the host community. The initiative runs for three years and amounts to 500 million DKK, with 50 million DKK from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, 200 million DKK from the LEGO Foundation, 50 million DKK from the Grundfos Foundation, and 200 million DKK from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The three philanthropic foundations contribute expertise and funding in vital sectors: health, education, and water, with the ambition to support services inside and outside the camps. To best support the role of Kenyan authorities, the alliance's activities will be based on local authorities' development plans.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' financial contribution to support Kenya's new approach to the refugee area—the Future Refugee Initiative—was launched in 2023 with a grant of 50 million DKK and an additional 150 million DKK in 2024 for implementation during the 2023-26 period.

The program consists of three thematic areas (projects) focusing on:
1) Strengthening the capacity of Kenyan authorities at the municipal and national levels in implementing inclusive refugee initiatives.

2) Support to provision of health, water, and education. This includes projects implemented by UNHCR on health and education and projects implemented by Amref Health Africa on health and water. The vision is that the responsibility for service delivery will eventually be taken over by the local authorities.

3) Strengthening resilience and entrepreneurship among refugees and host communities. This  project is carried out in collaboration with the Grundfos Foundation and implemented through two NGO projects led by the Danish Refugee Council together with organizations such as DanChurchAid and a consortium led by Plan International Denmark.

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