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Work Progresses on Ivorian Refugee Camp in Liberia

The U.N. refugee agency says it has completed the first phase of work on a camp for refugees who have fled Ivory Coast for Liberia. The UNHCR says the camp will be able to house between 15,000 and 18,000 Ivorian refugees when it is completed.

The camp is being constructed in Bahn, a remote part of eastern Liberia. U.N. refugee spokesman, Andrej Mahecic says the initial phase of the work, which included identification, measurement and clearing of the camp site proved more challenging than expected.

“It took some 200 local men with machetes and machines over three weeks to clear some 80 hectares of jungle for the site. The arrival of heavy machinery from Sierra Leone has helped to pick up the pace. The construction of the camp’s main reception center is starting this week,” Mahecic explains. “The center will have 14 shelters with capacity of housing 500 refugees at a time. Other camp facilities will include latrines, showers, security, registration and distribution sites, kitchen, canteen, warehouse, medical screening clinic, water wells and offices.”

Mahecic says local builders have been hired to help construct facilities in the camp that is to be completed in the next three to four weeks. He says the first Ivorian refugees will be settled as soon as the basic facilities and services are in place.

He says Liberia hosts more than 30,000 refugees who have fled post-election violence and tensions in the Ivory Coast.

“We register people as we find them and at this point ... many of them seem to be crossing, trying to avoid roads and busier places and are reaching Liberia basically through the jungle,” Mahecic said. “So, it is only when we register that we know that they are there.”

The U.N. Children’s Fund says 85 percent of the refugees are women and children. UNICEF says some of the most urgent needs are shelter, safe water, sanitation, nutrition and safe places where children can play, learn and have a sense of normalcy.

Yellow fever in this area is a risk, so UNICEF and its partners have begun working on a vaccination campaign.