Poor conditions limit access to growing Ivoirian refugee population in Liberia
NIMBA COUNTY, Liberia, 25 January 2011 – The vast majority – fully 85% of the refugees fleeing Cote d’Ivoire into Liberia – are children and women. As at 20 January, there were 29,143 registered refugees (60% children, 55% women, less than 15% men over 18).
Actual numbers are significantly higher. If current trends in refugee influx continue, there will be 50,000 refugees by mid-February, and 100,000 by the end of April. The refugees are being hosted in 32 villages in Nimba, Grand Gedeh and Maryland counties, with the vast majority of them concentrated in Nimba. The host communities are among the poorest in Liberia, and the refugee influx is adding severe strain to limited services and resources.
Extremely poor roads and bad bridges, many made of sticks and logs, pose significant access constraints. Transport conditions are worst along Nimba’s 100 km border with Cote d’Ivoire, where most of the refugees are located. Yesterday the village of Bleemeplay, which hosts around 5,000 refugees, was entirely cut off because of two inaccessible bridges.
Unless work is done now to improve road conditions, many villages hosting thousands of refugees will be entirely cut off once the rainy season begins in April. UNICEF has disributed water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to 10,000 people in Gbehllageh and Zoegeh, which have the largest numbers of refugees, and prepositioned supplies for 10,000 more.
Repairs to existing water sources and latrine construction have improved access to another 10,000.
UNICEF-supported health, nutrition, immunization services are being provided through existing facilities, but needs are enormous and the geographical spread of the refugee population means that some refugees need to walk enormous distances just to access basic services.
Refugee children have begun attending school after normal school hours, but numbers are small. UNICEF is working with partners to identify additional teachers among the refugee population to scale up learning, recreational and child protection services.
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