Kenya has been home to a significant number of refugees since the 1990s, with most of them coming from Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Urban refugees, in particular, have been facing numerous challenges in accessing basic services like healthcare, education, and employment, among others. This has been particularly difficult for women refugees who, in most cases, are the primary caregivers in their households. This blog post explores the challenges faced by urban refugee women in Kenya when accessing services and the potential solutions to address these challenges.

Challenges faced by urban refugee women in accessing services in Kenya

Lack of documentation: Urban refugee women in Kenya often lack proper documentation, including identification cards and work permits, which makes it difficult for them to access essential services such as healthcare and education. Without proper documentation, they risk arrest, detention, and deportation, which further complicates their access to services.

Photo Courtesy: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina

Discrimination: Discrimination against refugee women is rampant in Kenya, with some service providers refusing to serve them due to their refugee status. This discrimination is often compounded by cultural and language barriers that make it difficult for refugee women to access services.

Limited resources: Urban refugees in Kenya live in overcrowded and underserved areas, with limited resources such as water, sanitation, and health facilities. This limits their ability to access basic services, particularly for women who have to travel long distances to access healthcare, education, and other services.

Gender-based violence: Urban refugee women in Kenya are at a high risk of gender-based violence, including sexual assault, domestic violence, and harassment. This violence often limits their ability to access essential services and puts their health and safety at risk.

Potential solutions to address challenges faced by urban refugee women in Kenya

Simplify documentation processes: The Kenyan government should simplify the documentation processes for refugees to ensure that they can access essential services. This can be done by implementing a standardized identification system that is recognized by all service providers.

Increase awareness and sensitivity among service providers: Service providers should be sensitized on the needs of refugees, including women, and trained to provide culturally appropriate services that are free from discrimination.

Improve resource allocation: The Kenyan government and humanitarian organizations should allocate more resources to improve living conditions in refugee camps and urban areas. This can include providing more health facilities, schools, and other basic services to reduce the burden on urban refugee women.

Address gender-based violence: The Kenyan government should implement policies and programs that address gender-based violence and provide support to survivors. This can include setting up safe spaces, providing counselling services, and ensuring that perpetrators are brought to justice.


Access to essential services is a basic human right that should be afforded to all, including urban refugee women in Kenya. Addressing the challenges faced by these women requires a concerted effort from the government, humanitarian organizations, and service providers. By implementing the potential solutions discussed above, we can improve the lives of urban refugee women and ensure that they have access to the services they need to thrive.

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