The two-day conference that is being attended by IGAD member states, development partners, UN agencies, the private sector, refugees, and civil society is aimed at developing responses toward forced displacement in the region.
According to Mohamed Elduma, the head of the social development unit at IGAD Health and Social Development Division, the conference will help transform the refugee status in the region.
"We are looking at developing the refugee response model from a care and humanitarian approach to empowering them alongside the host communities," Elduma said.
While saying that IGAD member states are looking at developing more holistic and integrated long-term solutions to build their resilience capacity and that of the hosting communities, Elduma stressed that in times of crisis, emergency aid is necessary to save lives, but there is a need to create an ecosystem that builds local capacity in a longer-term and sustainable way.
Furthermore, Catherine Wiesner, the head of external engagement at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) regional bureau, lauded IGAD member states for enacting policies aimed at improving the living conditions of refugees. Wiesner said these policies are helping refugees to build new lives and integrate in their new country, as well as supporting hosting communities through social integration.
John Burugu, the commissioner of Refugee Affairs in Kenya, said the government has gazetted refugee identification documents that allow them to open bank accounts and also have access to telecommunication services. All refugees living in Kenya are now eligible to transact money transfer services using their own telephone numbers, and they also have access to education and health.
According to Burugu, 80,000 refugees have optionally gone back to their countries of origin, 62,000 have managed to relocate to third countries and 600,000 are now in refugee camps in Kenya since 2013.
According to official reports, the IGAD conference in Nairobi is expected to address long-term social, economic, infrastructural, environmental, and natural resource challenges that affect displaced persons and their host communities; the IGAD region hosts more than 20 percent of the global refugee population.
According to IGAD, about 18.9 million are forcibly displaced, including 4.5 million refugees and asylum seekers and over 14 million internally displaced persons due to conflict and climatic shocks.