Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Dominant narrative around African refugee health is one of dependence on humanitarian aid. More than 11 million people around the world live in protracted refugee situations. Consequently, governments, multilateral institutions, and non-governmental organizations (NGO) face challenges in providing sufficient services to meet people’s long-term health and welfare needs. The limited health resources available are targeted towards infectious diseases, which although remain a necessity in protracted situations, are being overtaken by the growing burden of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs). This research project challenges the dominant narrative through a case study of the health experiences of Somali refugees living with hypertension in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp. The study employed ethnographic research methods to understand (i) refugees’ perceptions of their illness and (ii) the treatment options available to them in the camp. One of the key findings was the extensive network of refugee operated ‘informal private clinics’ in the camp that many refugees chose to use over the official NGO operated facilities. Though technically isolated in the ‘heterotopia’ that is the refugee camp, refugees have found innovative ways of integrating with their surrounding communities. This goes against the dependency narrative and instead highlights the resiliency and the community strengths among the refugee population.