Modified Shipping Containers: Temporary Housing for Long-Lasting Healing | The Center for Victims of Torture

Modified Shipping Containers: Temporary Housing for Long-Lasting Healing

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

There were approximately 180,000 refugees living in the Kakuma refugee camps of northwest Kenya in 2017. Half of them were women and children. Many were survivors of torture. And, as another year begins, the UN refugee agency estimates that an additional 10,000 children and youth have arrived.

The lack of resources for mental and physiological care at the Kakuma refugee camps is devastating. CVT’s healing work in Dadaab and Nairobi is simply not enough to meet the rapidly growing crisis spreading through this region of Africa. So in an effort to bring more men, women and children the in-depth healing care they need to rebuild their lives, CVT will expand its work to Kakuma’s Kalobeyei settlement.

Hiring is underway, and after a minor setback due to flooding, construction is about to begin. When conceptualizing space for the new clinic, though, CVT staff needed to get creative. They wanted a structure that was temporary, but tenacious enough to withstand the climate’s elements. Their solution? Shippable housing containers.

According to Pablo Traspas, country director for CVT Kenya, modifying shipping containers into habitable rooms is more affordable than assembling a newly-built structure – in fact, it costs almost 10 times less. The containers were specifically designed for a largely desert environment where life is challenging and hazards include:

  • Dust storms
  • High temperatures
  • Poisonous predators like spiders, snakes and scorpions
  • A current record-breaking drought that spans much of the vast Turkana district and has led to a great famine among the local Turkana population
  • Outbreaks of malaria and cholera

“Patches of green are found in areas with irrigation, or in rare spots where the water level is somewhat higher than in other places,” explains Pablo. “But when the rains come, flash flooding is very dangerous, and every year people and livestock die from being trapped in flood waters.” 

Roads and bridges become impassable too. This causes extreme hardship for the local population -- CVT staff as well as refugees. It's crucial, then, that the small, self-contained rooms inside the shipping containers are not only durable but comfortable. Each one is air-conditioned to protect clients and staff from the sun and high temperatures throughout the day.

In the coming months, CVT Kakuma will open its intentionally-designed, modified doors – and members of the refugee and host communities in the region will at long last have access to holistic, rehabilitative care.

By Sabrina Crews, marketing communications specialist

Photo by Laura Gueron

CVT Kakuma is funded by a grant from the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

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