For refugees, getting information is not easy. DW Akademie recently published three studies on the information needs of refugees and host communities in East Africa. Meet the researchers Lucy Munyi and Elijah Makau.
DW Akademie's publication "No newspapers here" - Information needs assessments among refugees and host communities in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania" is available for free download
DW Akademie: Working for the Pan African Research Services (PARS), a Kenyian research consultancy company, you traveled through East Africa in 2019 and 2020 to organize trainings of enumerators [data collectors] and gather data for the DW Akademie study “No newspapers here: Information needs assessments among refugees and host communities in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania”. What’s the first memory that comes to your mind when thinking back to these assignments?
Lucy Munyi, PARS: For me the first thing that comes to mind is the extend of the ethnic conflict which exists in the camps between the refugees themselves and also between the refugees and the host community.
Elijah Makau, PARS: The first thing that comes to my mind is the excitement in meeting new people there. We already knew the enumerators over there and got to meet different communities in different camps who gave out information and their views on their needs for information.
Kakuma Town, Kenya: Researcher Lucy Munyi (second from right) in a focus group discussion with members of the host community
If you had to sum up the findings of the research, what would it be?
EM: Both the refugees and host communities are lacking information and giving them this information would give them hope, certainty, and open doors for them to at least do something with their lives.
Was there anything that surprised you about the findings?
Kenya, Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement and Turkana Host Community: Trusted information sources. Selected findings of the study "No newspapers here" (click for larger image)
LM: For Kenya [Kakuma refugee camp, Kalobeyei integrated settlement] the most surprising thing we found out was that the rural host community has an acute lack of information. That was not my expectation. For Ethiopia, it was the ways they came up with in the camps in the Gambella region to use coffee and tea ceremonies to bring people together so they could receive information and training. I found that very innovative.
EM: For me the most surprising thing was that most of the information did not reach the refugees and host communities. That’s why most refugees were really relying on radio stations from their home countries like, for example, refugees from Burundi. But sometimes they got signals and sometimes not.
Which infomation is most needed? Refugees in Gambella, Ethiopia, discuss the ranking of topics like information on education, health and resettlement
The assessments were conducted in and around refugee camps. What were the biggest challenges of working in these environments?
Ethiopia, Gambella Regional State: Sources of information. Selected findings of the study "No newspapers here" (click for larger image)
LM: I'll start with Ethiopia. One of the biggest challenges was the lack of utilities within the camps [Pugnido, Pugnido 2, Jewi, Nguenyyiel, Kule and Tierkidi] that we observed. For example, the lack of electricity limited mobile phone connectivity making communication a challenge between us and the enumerators. There is also very poor infrastructure within the camps so movement was a challenge. And there was even flooding which made movement even worse because roads are non-existent.
In Kakuma and Kalobeyei [Kenya], there is no dominant language as such as we have many ethnic groups. We have the Somalis, Sudanese, refugees from Burundi and from Rwanda. They speak different languages so moderating focus groups with different communities was a bit of a challenge because we had to use multiple translators.
Tanzania, Kigoma and Kagera regions: Channels of communication. Selected findings of the study "No newspapers here" (click for larger image)
EM: In terms of Tanzania, accessing the camps [Nyarugusu, Mtendeli and Nduta Camps] was really a big challenge because of the protocols which had been set by the government: the procedures we had to go through and the offices you have to visit to get approval to get into these camps. Those things took us a very long time.
The other challenge was the tensions between the host community and the refugees. The host community had this idea that sometimes the refugees leave the camp and steal from them and vice versa. And the refugees said sometimes the hosts come in and attack them.
Research projects like this are often conducted by big international research companies. What advantages can a local research consultancy like PARS offer compared to the international ones?
LM: For a local consultant, it is easy to get the right and correct information because there is less expectations from the respondents. For example, when we look at foreign companies coming to interview refugees, most of the time they exaggerate their challenges in the hope of getting something from them. There is also trust because they can identify with a local company and a local consultant.
It’s also easier to get permits to access the camps and to reach out to the stakeholders because you can identify with them. They know you are a local company and the information is used to help the local situation. So, it is easier to get to the local stakeholders.
Lucy Munyi, field operations manager, Pan African Research Services (PARS), Kenya
Lucy has worked in the research sector for the last 12 years. She has experience in both market and social research using qualitative and quantitative research methods. Lucy conducted the research in Kakuma, Kenya, and Gambella, Ethiopia.
Elijah Makau, senior research executive, Pan African Research Services (PARS), Kenya
Elijah is a social researcher with experience in baseline surveys and project evaluations. He has four years of experience in the research industry. Elijah conducted the research in Kagera and Kigoma, Tanzania.
The studies were supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).