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Agnes Olusese, Shamm Petros and Edwin Odhiambo Abuya

Humanitarian emergencies and displacement usually leads to disruption of families, which augments the vulnerability of children, exposing them to increased risks of sexual and labor exploitation, abuse and violence as they are separated from their care-givers. Kenya receives a significant number of refugees annually with a sizable portion being unaccompanied and separated children (UASC). In Kenya, a lack of sufficient and well-monitored alternative care options results in gaps that allow for the abuse and exploitation of refugee UASC, especially in urban areas where regulation by agencies is not as strict as it is in refugee camps. UASC in urban areas are largely cared for by non-profit and non-governmental organizations involved in child protection, with the government playing a minimal role. Unlike UASC in camp settings, UASC in urban settlements are marginalized by policy and social tensions, resulting in limited access to livelihood and protection services. Alternative care-givers are generally unverified, unmonitored and spread out all over the peri-urban areas, which complicates supervision and reporting efforts. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) plays a coordinating role with refugee children but their oversight is mainly on activities undertaken by implementing partners. Refugee children who end up in informal arrangements are not regularly supervised and are easily exploited and abused by their care-givers.