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The town has hosted the Kakuma Refugee Camp since 1992. This camp currently serves over 110,000 men, women and children who have fled wars in neighboring countries. A majority are from southern Sudan, some from Somalia and the last major group from Ethiopia. Other groups include Burundians, Congolese, Eritreans and Ugandans.
Living in Kakuma as a refugee is a very difficult experience. Dust storms frequently pass through the area. Malnutrition, communicable disease outbreaks, and malaria are all ongoing problems, while donor support has faltered due to conflicts in other parts of the world. Many of the refugees hope to leave Kakuma for resettlement in another country such as the USA. For example, the "Lost Boys of Sudan" were a special group who were resettled from the camp to the U.S. in recent years. With the recent end of the civil war in Sudan between the SPLA and other southern forces against the government in Khartoum many are hopeful more Sudanese refugees will finally be able to return home.
The Kakuma Refugee Camp was the location of a large project from 1995 to 2002 sponsored by Solar Cookers International through which thousands of families began using solar panel cookers to cook their daily meals. Many families had been trading some of their meager food rations for firewood to use to cook what little food they had left. The project was organized such that a group of refugee women were trained to be trainers. These women would then be paid to hold regular classes to teach other women to solar cook and to provide them with a cooker. The cookers were made locally in Nairobi for US$2.00 each.
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