In a small shelter in Kakuma refugee camp, in northeast Kenya, Lydia and her five-year-old daughter Joyce snuggle on a bed covered by a white mosquito net.

Here, they are safe from war and better protected from malaria – a welcome change from the dangers they have faced in the last three years.

Back in 2016, 37-year-old Lydia was living in Juba, South Sudan, with her husband and six children. Life was good: there was work, food, and the children went to school. Lydia even went to Sudan to get a degree in business administration.

But when violence broke out in the city, everything changed. Lydia’s husband was kidnapped. Without him, Lydia and the children were alone and vulnerable.

Heartbroken and fearing for their lives, they fled in search of safety. After a difficult three-day journey, they arrived in Kakuma, in neighboring Kenya, where they were registered by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

With support from UNHCR, the family began to rebuild their lives in their new home. Lydia learned English and took advantage of workshops and technical trainings offered in the camp, and the children all enrolled in school.

They were finally safe from war. But not from the risk presented by mosquitoes.

Since arriving in Kenya, two of her kids had gotten sick with malaria, which is endemic in the area. Refugees, who often don’t have the resources to fight off the mosquitoes that transmit malaria, are especially vulnerable to this deadly disease.

With support from the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign (now called United to Beat Malaria), UNHCR has distributed bed nets to protect thousands of refugees in Kakuma, including Lydia and her family.

Since 2000, the group has helped save the lives of an estimated 6.8 million people around the world by providing communities with long-lasting nettings, diagnostic tests, and medical treatments.

It’s easy to see the impact the nets have had on the health of refugee families. Lydia received three mosquito nets for her family in October 2018 and since then, no one in her family has fallen ill with malaria.

“The mosquito net is very important,” Lydia says. 

Healthy and happy, all of Lydia’s six children are performing well in school, and one of her daughters has just received a scholarship for next year.

“I need all my children to study very well, that’s my only dream,” Lydia says, beaming with pride. “Life is very difficult if you are a refugee. I have dreams for me and my kids, and that’s why I fight on – for my children.”

From The United Nations Foundation's United to Beat Malaria and The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

January 30, 2024 — Christy Hobart

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