Kenya's refugee transit center overstretched amid new waves of arrivals

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Looking frail, thirsty and hungry, Abumukisa Twesenge alighted from a minivan that had transported him from Malaba Town, located at the Kenya-Uganda border.

Twesenge, 52, is among hundreds of refugees who recently arrived at the transit center in Kenya's western town of Kitale on Thursday evening from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda.

The Congolese man has been living with his family of six at Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement in Kamwenge District in southwestern Uganda since he fled the war in his motherland seven years ago.

With insufficient money, Twesenge and his fellow refugees could not buy food on the way. He claimed that life at the refugee camp had become unbearable due to a lack of food, drugs, and other necessities.

"There is no food, my children are not going to school, and there is no money to buy drugs," Twesenge told Xinhua at a makeshift shelter while waiting to be transported to the sprawling Kakuma Refugee Camp located in Kenya's northern county of Turkana.

The former gold miner said he was forced to flee Uganda to escape starvation. "Me and my family were on the verge of succumbing to extreme hunger, and we decided to come to Kenya hoping to get assistance," Twesenge said.

Amid heavy downfall, about 200 families were received by officials of the Kenya Red Cross Society at the temporary shelter.

Njabu Dido, 39, is a native of Ituri Province in the DRC who fled fighting at his ancestral village in the early days of April accompanied by his wife and five children. After a long journey, the family landed in western Tanzania, where he was accommodated by well-wishers and engaged in casual work in order to get money to facilitate his travel to Kenya.

"We stayed for two weeks working on local farms before I raised money to travel to Kenya through Uganda. It has been a frustrating journey, but I am happy we have finally arrived in Kenya safely," Dido said.

Janerose Veve, 63, narrated how she and her husband, Fratrasoa Dirokia, cheated death narrowly when armed attackers ambushed their home in eastern DRC and killed her two children.

Veve said surviving members of her family fled to western Uganda, where a life of drudgery took a toll on them until they found solace at the temporary refugee camp in northern Kenya.

Nsadiyumua Nestor, a Burundian aged 30 and a father of three, fled his native country in 2014 due to civil strife. He, together with his wife and children, landed in southwestern Uganda and later relocated to northern Kenya in search of a better life.

According to Kenya Red Cross Society County Coordinator Ruth Miningwo, at least 8,468 refugees have been received at the Kitale transit center in western Kenya since January.

Miningwo said the majority of the refugees are from the DRC and Burundi, and a few are from Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.

"We are receiving between 600 and 800 refugees weekly, and since January we have had over 8000 arrivals. Women and children form 60 percent of the families," said Miningwo, adding that the transit center has the capacity to hold about 200 people while the new waves of arrivals have overstretched it. 

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