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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid