We Survive Together: Utilising Transnational Resources as Community Income in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya


  • Deirdre Patterson University of Sussex


insecurity, refugee camp, reciprocity, fictive kin


Life in Kakuma involves navigating daily crisis situations composed of food shortages, medical emergencies, and harassment by the police. This paper explores how these constant states of crisis are changing notions of family constitution and moral responsibility in South Sudanese refugee communities. The data presented in this paper suggests that the South Sudanese refugees who received remittances from family members living abroad have a shared sense of responsibility to provide for their community members who are in need through sharing financial resources beyond the nuclear and extended family network.  Since the members of these makeshift networks live in a constant state of need, the limited economic resources introduced are often invested towards the daily survival of the group rather than the personal advancement of the individual. This sharing economy contradicts much of the existing literature that assumes remittances are used for individual livelihood development in impoverished communities. Consequently, this paper interrogates commonly held perceptions of family or community obligations, and the degree to which remittances are effective in the restrictive and insecure environment of a refugee camp.

Author Biography

Deirdre Patterson, University of Sussex

PhD Student, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex