News / Africa

    Ivorian Refugees Strain Resources in Liberia

    Refugee women in Tuzon, Liberia gather and sell produce to make money to feed their children
    Refugee women in Tuzon, Liberia gather and sell produce to make money to feed their children

    Ivory Coast is still reeling from a post-electoral crisis that killed at least 3,000 people and displaced more than a million after former president Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to U.N.-certified winner of last November's election, Alassane Ouattara.

    The Liberia office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says as many as 190,000 refugees from Ivory Coast fled to eastern Liberia, though registration and verification are still underway to obtain exact numbers.

    The influx began late last year to Liberia's northeastern Nimba County where many refugees had familial and ethnic ties. It then shifted further south to Grand Gedeh and Maryland counties in April as fighters loyal to Ouattara swept through western Ivory Coast on their way to the commercial capital Abidjan.

    An Ivorian boy holds his baby brother at the Koblakan river crossing in Liberia
    An Ivorian boy holds his baby brother at the Koblakan river crossing in Liberia

    More than 20,000 refugees arrived in Grand Gedeh county in a single week that month, overwhelming already struggling border communities like the small town of Tuzon, which had already taken in 1,500 Ivorian refugees just days after before Gbagbo was arrested in mid-April.

    Cocoa farmer Maurice Beh and his family fled fighting near their home in western Ivory Coast in March, and like many they hid in the forest before crossing into Liberia.

    Beh says since they arrived in Tuzon, food has been a problem. He says they have to get small day contracts to do odd jobs and be paid so they can buy rice for their families. He says they work in the forest or look for snails to sell in town. He says they don't have shelter and sleep where they can, even outside.

    In recent weeks, the situation in communities like Tuzon has gotten even more desperate, and Liberia's internal affairs minister, Harrison Kanwea, has called for increased international aid.

    "The situation is pathetic. It has overwhelmed the local communities," said Kanwea. "Right now, the host communities have depleted their supplies of food in their effort in helping their brothers and sisters that have come across from the other side."

    UNHCR Liberia Representative, Ibrahmia Coly, said 85 percent of refugees are still in Liberian border communities and the agency has revised its strategy to provide assistance to all refugees, not just those in transit centers or camps further from the border, as it had previously planned.

    However, he said reaching those communities can be a logistical nightmare, especially as the onset of rainy season makes the region's notoriously bad roads even more impassable.

    An Ivorian mother sits in the shade with her children at the Koblakan river crossing in Liberia
    An Ivorian mother sits in the shade with her children at the Koblakan river crossing in Liberia

    "The fact that they scattered in villages, it's really difficult to get the assistance on time. The food distribution in Grand Gedeh for those who are in the host communities started last month and is still going on," Coly said. "It's not completed yet. In Maryland County, it's going to start in June. For those who came since early March up to now, it's a long time."

    In Nimba County, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has distributed seeds and tools to help communities meet the food needs of refugees, who have been able to pitch in and farm with their hosts. However, Coly said rural communities further south live primarily by hunting wild animals, not farming, and have had more trouble absorbing the refugees and their needs.

    Grand Gedeh and Maryland Counties are now home to an estimated 85,000 refugees and Coly said between 60 and 200 refugees continue to cross over daily.

    Many refugees in the two counties come from the Toulepleu and Tabou areas of western Ivory Coast, which saw some of the worst fighting during the conflict.  Coly says the refugees are not eager to go home.

    "These people may stay a bit longer here. The majority of them are pro-Gbagbo," said Coly. "Second, they are coming from areas where there was a lot of destruction. Some of their houses have been burned down. There was a lot of looting, and there is still at the moment insecurity in the area where they come from."

    Ouattara's inauguration earlier this month may have marked a symbolic end to the crisis in Ivory Coast, but humanitarian workers, like Coly, say the situation for refugees and host communities in Liberia remains critical.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora