News / Africa

Thousands Flee Ivory Coast Stand-Off

Government of Liberia Bureau of Immigration officials register asylum-seekers from Ivory Coast in the town of Loguatuo, in Nimba County
Government of Liberia Bureau of Immigration officials register asylum-seekers from Ivory Coast in the town of Loguatuo, in Nimba County

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says at least 15,000 Ivorians, mostly children, have fled to neighboring Liberia fearing Ivory Coast's violent post-electoral political stand-off could spark civil war. 

Incumbent Ivorian president, Laurent Gbagbo, continues to refuse to cede power to U.N.-endorsed presidential election winner, Alassane Ouattara, following last month's presidential poll.

The dispute has sparked a violent political power struggle that could reignite a 2002-2003 civil war.

As regional powers continue to seek a diplomatic solution, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says Ivorians are fleeing by the thousands to neighboring Liberia. 

UNHCR has registered just over 15,000 refugees, though there could be as many as 20,000. Nearly two-thirds are children.

U.N. Children's Fund Representative to Liberia, Isabel Crowley, said they anticipate as many 50,000 to 100,000 refugees.

"Everyday we have 1,000 to 2,000 coming through the border. In the beginning, we were having about 200, but now we have got 1,000, 2,000 and -- certain times when there are escalations on the rhetoric in Abidjan - we even have 3,000 people coming through," she said.

The refugees are coming from Ivory Coast's troubled western regions, which experienced some of the worst fighting during the civil war. Local militias fought on the side of government troops against a rebel insurgency from the North.

UNHCR says both Gbagbo and Ouattara supporters are among the refugees.

UNICEF's Crowley said refugees say they fled because they felt threatened, either by the possibility of a rebel attack or because of intimidation by security forces.

She says men often stay behind to look after the property, so the refugees are mainly women and children. Some children are in the care of an older sibling, while UNICEF has encountered others, as young as three years old, who have been abandoned or walked on their own.  

"The refugees are coming in and they obviously have nothing with them, so the urgent needs for children right now  are shelter, safe drinking water, sanitation, food and nutrition and safe living spaces, places where they can play and where we can give some sense of normalcy," said Crowley.

Crowley said many refugees have often walked for days and arrive very hungry and in need of shelter.

Crowley said many have been taken in by Liberian families, most of whom are already very poor. They are dispersed throughout 22 villages in eastern Liberia's Nimba region, which Crowley said presents a hefty challenge for aid workers.

"When you're talking about 22 settlements on a very, very bad road, it is very difficult to access all of the children," she said.

Crowley said the United Nations has been working with the Liberian government, and they are considering the possibility of setting up a camp.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says it is currently distributing emergency aid, but local communities are being stretched to the limit, homes are overcrowded, and supplies are running out.

UNICEF has also noted cases of malaria and diarrhea and is vaccinating refugees against polio, measles and yellow fever to prevent disease outbreaks.

UNICEF is calling for $4 million in funding, which Crowley said would meet the needs of 50,000 refugees for a three month period.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Arkansas, North Carolina have approved similar laws that gay-marriage opponents say help maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More