International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Making ends meet in Nairobi

Jina Krause-Vilmar is Senior Program Officer for Livelihoods at our affiliate organization, the Women's Refugee Commission. This post originally appeared on the Women's Refugee Commission blog. 

I stepped off of a teeming street into Aamina’s* apartment, where the floury, slightly sour scent of injera lingered in the air. A round stove, a small TV, and a set of bunk beds lined the teal-gray walls of the one-room flat that Aamina shares with her two children and two employees. The tiny, crowded space also serves as Aamina’s place of business. She bakes injera, the spongy Ethiopian flatbread, to sell in her neighborhood.

Aamina came to Eastleigh, a sprawling slum in Nairobi, Kenya, after her husband was killed by the government in Ethiopia. Fearing for her family’s safety, Aamina escaped across the border with her mother and her two young children. She decided to settle in the city because she feared that Kenya’s refugee camps lacked economic opportunities and the health services her ailing mother depends on. But like millions of other refugees living in urban environments today, she struggles to provide for her family, relying on whatever means and skills she can.

Making ends meet is often difficult and dangerous for refugees living in cities, where paying rent and buying food can be a daily struggle and finding work is complicated.  Most host countries do not allow refugees to work legally, so people find themselves forced to take jobs that pay “under the table.” Refugees with no legal protection risk exploitation and abuse by their employers. Even refugees like Aamina who manage to start their own small business face severe challenges.

Read the full post on the Women's Refugee Commission blog

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

1 comment


its true that refugees in

its true that refugees in Kenya are suffering so much, especially those without permanent jobs, paying rent, buying food, paying school fees, paying school fees for their young ones e.t.c is a hard life for these people, i feel sorry for them, also in Kenya especially in the city life is becoming more and more expensive as each day goes by. support for this women and children is really appreciated. me myself one day am dreaming of opening my own childrens home because nowadays in Kenya this life has made some parents to abandon their children. so there are many children out of school and without shelter. our leaders themselves are the ones not helping these people. they fight for their own stomachs so its hard, here is very hard