More than 15,000 Ivoirians flee political crisis, seeking refuge in Liberia
Nimba County, Liberia, 27 Dec 2010 - “We walked from Gotuo (Southwestern Cote d‘Ivoire) for three days through the bush to come here. There were many people walking with us. We ran away because we were afraid that the rebels would come to beat us,” said 12 year old Wonyen Basee.
Wonyen is among the thousands of Ivoirians who fled to Liberia after the eruption of violence following the Presidential run- off in Cote d’Ivoire last month.
Majority of the communities along the northern border of Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire belong to the same tribe and speak a similar dialect. Many families are even related through marriage. “They are like our own people, we speak the same language and we are happy to host them. But they should work with us in the farms so that we produce enough food for everyone,” said Victor G. Warleh, the town chief of Kissiplay in Nimba County.
More than 60 per cent are children
More than 60% of the refugees are children. Quite a few among them are unaccompanied, having crossed the border with their older siblings and relatives. “I was playing and I saw many people in line walking by, so I followed them,” said three-year old Dan Woulie, to a UNICEF needs assessment team. Dan is the youngest unaccompanied child registered so far and presently being looked after by a refugee family, till his family is traced from across the border.
A multi sectoral humanitarian response
The government, NGOs and UNHCR are distributing non food items like cooking pots, blankets, soap, mosquito nets and mats to refugee as well as host families. WFP is expediting food distribution in the affected areas and WHO with the Ministry of Health and partners are working to increase health care services to communities.
UNICEF is leading the coordination and response efforts for nutrition, water and sanitation, child protection and education in partnership with relevant government ministries, Save the Children and other civil society partners.
“There are more than 22 settlements hosting refugees, and it is quite a challenge to provide all communities with safe drinking water and sanitation facilities and other services due to bad road conditions. However, the Government and NGO partners have been very pro active, and we’re trying our best to reach the communities as early as possible,” said Sam Treglown, Water and Sanitation specialist from UNICEF.
Hope for peace
By Miraj Pradhan and Bill Diggs