Dadaab Refugee Camps, Kenya

The World’s Largest Refugee Camp

CARE is working in Dadaab to provide a safe haven for those fleeing violence and food insecurity in the Horn of Africa.


In 2011, a catastrophic drought struck the Horn of Africa, affecting Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya. 

Motherhood in Dadaab

Countless families are being broken up as mothers and children leave Somalia in search of relief while their husbands stay behind to care for relatives who are too old, too sick, or too weak from hunger to flee. These heroic women and their families are survivors of the century's biggest humanitarian emergency.

Dadaab Refugee Camp: Through the Lens

The Dadaab refugee camps were originally built to hold only 90,000 people, but a recent food crisis and famine have caused it to grow to nearly five times the intended size.

Helping to Educate Children in Dadaab

Liz McLaughlin, Executive Director of CARE's Foundation Unit, traveled to the Dadaab camp in Northern Kenya where CARE is helping to educate refugee children. She captured her journey on camera.

From Dadaab to Jordan With Love

Refugee children in Dadaab, Kenya send messages of hope and solidarity to Syrian refugee children in Jordan. 


Since the creation of the Dadaab refugee camps in 1991, CARE has provided assistance to the refugee population in addition to supporting host communities around the camps. The camps were originally built to hold only 90,000 people, but have grown over the years to nearly five times the intended size. As of April 29, 2013, the population in Dadaab stood at 423,496 registered refugees: 51 percent who are female and 58 percent younger than 18 years old.

Dadaab represents one of the largest and most protracted refugee situations in the world.

The camps's population exploded during a food crisis which turned into in 2010. The crisis hit conflict-stricken Somalia especially hard, and Somalis flocked to the Dadaab camps. Although the drought in has since ended, the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa and the influx of refugees in Dadaab is far from over.

Most of the refugees living in Dadaab cannot return to Somalia for fear of ongoing violence and persecution. Additionally, the end of the drought does not mean the end of poverty in Somalia – some 1.67 million people there are still facing food insecurity and even more live in grinding poverty.

CARE is working in Dadaab to provide a safe haven for those fleeing violence and food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. More refugees arrive every day. 

August 2017 Update
Drought emergency has been declared in 23 of 47 counties in Kenya, with 3.4 million people estimated to be food insecure and in need of assistance.


Our Work in the Camps

CARE the primary provider of basic services in Dadaab, including food, water and sanitation.  

Our short-term efforts include emergency aid to newly-arrived refugees in Dadaab. Individuals, especially children, who are suffering from malnutrition and medical problems are referred to supplementary and therapeutic feeding programs and stabilization units in camp hospitals.

Families are provided with two weeks' worth of food rations and other essentials, including tents, kitchen sets, firewood and fuel-efficient stoves while awaiting registration and access to general food distributions.

CARE also works with people living in spontaneous settlements outside the perimeter of the official camps, helping these communities with safe water and sanitation, improved security, and access to health services and emergency shelter.

In addition, CARE's long-term efforts include a myriad of programs that foster self-sufficiency and:

  • Employment:  CARE provides employment to refugees such as Uringi Sam Abott through the incentive worker program. This program allows CARE to keep up with the need for services of the growing refugee population in Dadaab and it provides refugees with a way to work and earn money, as well as learn skills and help their communities.
  • Education:  CARE operates five primary schools in Dagahaley Camp that enroll 16,000 students, almost half of whom are girls. We also carry out a rigorous training program for educators. For example, our programs help preschool teachers keep up their early childhood education and pedagogical skills; female teachers learn about role modeling and mentoring; and administrators collect and analyze data.
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene:  CARE focuses on improving access to water and the efficiency of use. In 2012, CARE delivered 2,101,092 cubed meters of water and educated more than 24,000 households on hygiene. We've also rehabilitated the water reticulation system in the camps, through the construction and maintenance of bore holes and water storage facilities.
  • Protection and safety:  CARE ensures the basic needs and rights of refugees are met and protected. For example, in response to increases in sexual violence during the Horn of Africa crisis in 2012, CARE screened all newly-arrived refugees to see if they'd been subjected to sexual violence on the way to the camps. Many had. We increased our  counseling services, carried out neighborhood forums on the prevention and reporting of gender-based violence, and trained hundreds of community leaders to provide basic counseling services and referrals. 

How CARE works in emergencies


In 2011 alone, CARE reached 12 million people affected by natural disasters, conflict situations and other crises.


In emergencies, CARE is among the first to arrive and the last to leave. When it comes to responding to an emergency, timing is crucial.