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Red Cross Feeding Ghanaians Displaced by Ethnic Violence

  • Sara Goldblatt

Ghana's Red Cross is distributing food to some 2,000 families - 10,000 people in all - who ethnic fled violence that erupted in March in the northern town of Bawku.

"This is the first organization that has intervened. Since April, no other organization," said Francis Obeng, the national disaster manager of the Ghana Red Cross. "A lot of NGOs who were on the field even left the place, the government offices were closed down. A lot of people and officials left the area, and so it was only the Red Cross that has the money to come to the aid of the people at this time."

With support from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the German Red Cross, Ghana's Red Cross is distributing 120 kilograms of maize, 40 kilograms of beans, 20 liters of oil and two kilograms of salt to each household.

Northern Ghana has been plagued by tension between the Kusai and Mamprusi ethnic groups for decades. The conflict stems from competition over who controls the area's traditional chieftaincy, which has implications for land rights. There was fighting over this issue in 2007 and 2008.

Obeng says the latest flare-ups in March and April of this year resulted in dozens of deaths and severely disrupted farming.

"The people want to go back to their farming, which is their major activity," he said. "Unfortunately they have eaten all their seeds during the period of crisis starting in March, so the intervention with Ghana Red Cross, ICRC, and German Red Cross, will be able to sustain the people to reach for their harvest period, which in one or two months time will be ready."

The Red Cross food donations will help the local population reach the next harvest period in November. Yet the situation between the Kusai and Mamprusi remains volatile.

"The situation is not over and the people need to recover, especially their buildings which were burnt down, so if other societies, other organizations can come over to rehabilitate these people, I think these people will appreciate it very much," said Obeng.

Beyond food, Obeng says people displaced by this year's violence also need help rebuilding their homes and getting enough seeds for the next planting season.

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