News / Africa

    Refugee Crisis Challenges Ivorian Government, Aid Workers

    Refugees of the Guere ethnic group mourn the death of a relative, inside a temporary camp set up at a Catholic church in Duekoue, Ivory Coast, May 2011. (file photo)
    Refugees of the Guere ethnic group mourn the death of a relative, inside a temporary camp set up at a Catholic church in Duekoue, Ivory Coast, May 2011. (file photo)
    Nick Loomis

    Ivory Coast's new government is working to convince refugees to return home after fleeing the violence of this year's political crisis. Many of those refugees, though, remain concerned about their security, where they will live on their return home - and if they will even have homes to which they can return.

    More than 400,000 Ivorians remain displaced by the conflict that followed last November's presidential election. Most are in camps in western Ivory Coast and across the border in Liberia. Though that number is down from about one million at the height of the conflict, the remaining refugees present the greatest humanitarian challenge to the new government of President Alassane Ouattara and its aid partners.

    In the north, camps on both sides of the border are emptying as civilians who support the president have returned home in large numbers.  But in the south, ethnic Guere who backed former president Laurent Gbagbo are more reluctant to leave the safety of their camps because they say they are afraid of pro-Ouattara militants.

    Father Cyprien Ahoure is the priest in charge of the Catholic mission in the southern Ivorian city of Duekoue, which currently holds 3,000 refugees who are not expected to leave any time soon.

    Father Ahoure said they are trying to reassure refugees, but the Ivorians have just emerged from a traumatic war and others still have ill intentions. He added that the mission needs to prepare a new site because people want to move there. Right now, every room is occupied, he said, and so is the entire courtyard.

    Crowded camps, thoughts of home


    In these crowded spaces, there is a lot of talk among the displaced about what is happening back home. Ahoure said there have been rumors that the camps will be closed by the government and people forced to return, but stressed that they are only rumors.

    Ahoure said that for the time being, mission workers are there to help. He has not received any information, but said that when he does, the mission will act accordingly. For now, he said, it cannot ignore the plight of the displaced.

    Mathieu Babaud Darret, Ivory Coast's minister in charge of ex-combatants and war victims, said the government will not close those camps, and said efforts are underway to improve relations in some of the most contentious areas through a Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    Darret said the most difficult part is not rebuilding homes, but educating the people. He said the first thing is that refugees have to agree to return. Then their local population has to be willing to accept them. Darret said the Ouattara government does not intend to force them to return home, preferring instead to show them that peace is possible.

    Government help toward reconciliation

    The Ivorian government would like to see all refugees return home by the end of the year. Death and rape are not easily forgotten, however,  especially when refugees believe many of the perpetrators are part of the new national security force.

    This is where the international aid community says the new government must step up and help reconcile political and ethnic adversaries.

    For reasons of misinformation, genuine concern, or both, the process is slow, according to Gaelle Bausson from the British charity Oxfam.

    "Our research found that most people actually really want to go home, they want to get back to normal, they want access to their land.  They want to get back their assets. What's preventing them from doing that is the perception that their security is not necessarily guaranteed - though there's been a major improvement in the security overall. But there are still allegations of arbitrary arrests, harassment, a lot of racketeering by armed men,” said Bausson.

    Additional money needed

    The United Nations says more funds are needed quickly to improve conditions before they escalate. So far, only one-third of the $292 million target has been raised. Bausson said aid workers in western Ivory Coast are making the most with what they have.

    "We are only focusing on the needs of the very most vulnerable because we don't have the means to cover the entire needs that we've identified. About 30,000 people, families, had their house destroyed or burned down," said Bausson. "But in fact, right now, we only have funding for 1,300 houses. And we're asking, the entire aid community is asking for at least funding for 6,000 houses that have been identified as the households that are really vulnerable, and won't be able to rebuild their lives if they're not helped.”

    Even if security can be restored, Bausson said livelihoods often cannot. More than 15,000 refugees have lost their sources of revenue, either through the destruction of their businesses, or the inability to access their lands.

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.