Uncovered: Africa’s Largest Refugee Camps

Sub-saharan Africa hosts more than 26% of the world’s refugee population in some of the largest camps in the world. Many have developed over decades in response to repeated waves of famine and civil unrest that have forced millions to flee their homes and seek safety across borders.

Camps strive to provide the most basic of human needs: food, shelter, education and healthcare. But these can be hard to deliver as the number of displaced people continues to rise, increasing by a staggering 2.5 million between January 2015 and January 2016 alone.

Here we shed light on the 9 largest refugee camps in Africa and how they cope with the thousands of troubled refugees they receive every year.

1. Dadaab, Kenya

Dadaab is home to over 250,000 refugees making it the largest refugee camp in Africa and indeed the world. The 25-year old camp is an amalgamation of a number of camps and provides far more than a temporary shelter to its inhabitants, mostly Somalis. It has recently faced threat of closure which would have forced inhabitants to return to their war-torn homeland. However, a high court ruling in January 2017 forced to keep it open, much to the relief of aid organisations.

2. Kakuma, Kenya

Kakuma was established in 1992 following the fall of the Ethiopian government which led to thousands fleeing the country. Whilst Kakuma can house 125,000 refugees, this figure rose to 175,000 in 2014 leading to a shortage of resources for its already desperate inhabitants. To help relieve the pressure, the UN approved expansion to the camp in 2016.

3. Hagadera, Kenya

Hagadera is the largest camp in the Dadaab with over 100,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia. Its population has declined in recent years due to the movement of inhabitants to the camp’s outskirts in a bid to relieve congestion. But the pressure on resources is great and malnutrition affects many children.

4. Dagahaley, Kenya

Another camp of the Dadaab, Dagahaley houses 90,000 refugees. Again, conditions are cramped and resources are stretched following a high influx of refugees in 2012 fleeing the Somalian civil war. Whilst shelter and infrastructure are poor, educational services exist for both children and adults, including schools, sports groups and vocational training.

5. Ifo, Kenya

Ifo is the oldest camp in the Dadaab and houses 62,000 mostly Somali inhabitants. The camp’s fostering programme provides a safe haven for children who have lost their families, and healthcare is well established, with a level-four hospital providing surgical and pre-natal services.

6.Yida, South Sudan

Established in 2012, Yida grew up as a result of refugees escaping the Second Sudanese Civil War. The UNHCR has attempted to move its 70,000 inhabitants to nearby settlements due to overpopulation and security concerns, however, most inhabitants still remain in Yida.

7. Katumba, Tanzania

Home to 66,000 inhabitants, Katumba grew up from the settling of Burundi refugees fleeing genocides in 1972. The Tanzanian government has now granted citizenship to the majority of Katumba inhabitants.

8. Pugnido, Ethiopia

The majority of the 62,000 refugees in Pugnido have escaped violence in Sudan, with a recent influx putting additional strain on resources. Yet the camp offers promise for children needing fostering and also education in the form of pre-schools, schools and vocational programs.

9. Mishamo, Tanzania

Originally a makeshift camp for those fleeing the horrors of violence in Burundi, Mishamo is now home to 62,000 refugees. Inhabitants are encouraged to farm their own food which forms the foundation of a basic economic structure.



Jackie Edwards is a freelance researcher, editor and writer, Jackie has travelled to some of the most deprived and war torn countries in the world spending a great deal of time as an aid worker.

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