For refugees living in urban areas like Nairobi, the Kenyan Government, through the Ministry of Health, the Nairobi County Government, and the Nairobi Metropolitan Services, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) and other local non-governmental organizations, makes available high-quality healthcare services. Refugees residing in urban areas can access government healthcare facilities to the same level as Nationals. Refugees are eligible to register for the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), a social health insurance fund established by the Government of Kenya at a minimal cost of USD 5 per month (Ksh. 500 per month)

If you are a refugee living in an urban area and have an NHIF card, you can access medical services at a facility of your choice including in-patient and out-patient services.

Kenya’s health structure:

There are 6 levels of health care facilities in Kenya:

  1. Level 1 – Community Health Facilities

This is the basic level and is run mainly by qualified community health volunteers.

They provide primary health care services such as treatment of minor illnesses, HIV testing and counseling, malnutrition screening, and blood pressure and blood sugar testing.

  1. Level 2- Dispensaries and Clinics

Run by clinical officers, Level 2 facilities offer outpatient services, VCT services, lab services, well-baby clinics, antenatal and postnatal services, and pharmacy services among others. They also issue referral letters to other facilities.

Dispensaries in cities also act like Level 3 facilities (health centers) (see level 3), but they do not have in-patient facilities.

  1. Level 3 – Health Centers and maternity and nursing homes

Level 3 facilities are small hospitals and are run by at least one doctor. Some of the services they offer include maternity in-patient with a ward, lab services, dental services, TB clinics, diabetes and hypertension clinics, Comprehensive care clinics for patients living with HIV, well-baby clinics, and antenatal and postnatal services. They also issue referral letters to other facilities. 

  1. Level 4 – Sub- County hospitals and medium-sized private hospitals

They offer the same services as the Level 3 hospitals, with the addition of plus X-Ray services. They also issue referral letters to other facilities

Many counties in Kenya have just 1 Level 4 hospital but larger cities like Nairobi have two.

  1. Level 5 – County referral hospitals and large private hospitals

They are run by a Chief Executive Officer who is usually a doctor by profession and have an in-patient capacity of over 100 beds.

Level 5 hospitals offer services offered by other hospitals, with the addition of offering specialized care functions such as ultrasound, CT-scan, surgery, pharmacy, physiotherapy, orthopedic and occupational therapy.

They also carry out health research as well as training services for various groups of health workers and internships and offer referral services to other hospitals.

In Nairobi, Mama Lucy Hospital and Mbagathi Hospital are classified as both Level 3 and Level 4 hospitals.

  1. Level 6 – National referral hospitals and large private teaching hospitals

Managed by the national government, level 6 hospitals offer the same range of services as Level 5 hospitals, and they also offer specialized treatment to patients.
These hospitals also serve patients from East and Central Africa.

Kenya has the following teaching and referral hospitals:

  1. Mathari Hospital – offers specialized mental health services
  2. Kenyatta National Hospital – offers specialized consultations in curative care
  3. Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital - offers specialized consultations in curative care
  4. National Spinal Injury Referral Hospital - offers specialized services in orthopedic and spinal injuries.


Which documents should you bring with you to access healthcare?

To access medical services at the dispensaries, health centers, sub county and county hospitals, any of the following documents are needed:  Alien Card, proof of registration (verification certificate), and Mandate Certificate.

To register with NHIF, refugees need to have valid proof of registration and should be able to sustain the monthly premium of Ksh. 500. Registration can be done in any NHIF office spread over the country. Refugees can also get in touch with the UNHCR NHIF focal persons through 0740049502 or 0798487957  to seek assistance on NHIF.

If you are a refugee with healthcare challenges and are unable to access healthcare services, you can get in touch with the NCCK for assistance, through their offices at Huruma or-the following phone numbers 0704873342, 0723281352.