The U.N. Refugee Agency says it is rushing aid to thousands of Ghanaians who fled into neighboring Togo following a violent land dispute between two villages in northeastern Ghana. Officials say the refugees presently are sheltering in four Togolese villages in Tanjouare district in Savane region.
The U.N. Refugee Agency praises the Togolese authorities for providing prompt emergency assistance and food to the Ghanaian refugees. A United Nations' assessment mission finds the refugees need water, food, shelter and medicines.
The agency says some 3,500 Ghanaians have fled into Togo over the past six weeks. Refugee agency spokesman, Andrej Mahecic says the refugees have told aid workers their houses were pillaged and destroyed, and their belongings torched.
"Most of these refugees belong to vulnerable groups," Mahecic explained. "There are many children, some of them suffering from diarrhea and malaria. There are also pregnant and lactating women, elderly and handicapped. The refugees presently outnumber the local population and share their quickly diminishing resources. Water is of particular concern, and we, as part of the immediate response, had offered to rehabilitate several wells in this area."
Mahecic says a first convoy of emergency relief aid left from the Ghanaian capital, Accra Thursday morning. He says another convoy loaded with hundreds of tents, shelter materials and other goods will leave in the next few days.
The spokesman says it will take the trucks three days to reach northern Togo and that the assistance will meet the refugees' needs for three months.
Mahecic says the refugee agency, or UNHCR, hopes the conditions in the Ghanaian villages will improve soon so the refugees can go home. In the meantime, he says the refugees will be transferred to a new site further away from the border.
"This move will help to improve security and alleviate the pressure on the scarce resources of the host communities and free the public buildings presently used to shelter refugees," he said. "Since the Ghanaian refugees came from both villages in the conflict, UNHCR is working with the local authorities to identify a second site that would allow the separation of the two opposing groups."
Mahecic says this is not the first time the Ghanaian villagers have crossed into Togo seeking safety and shelter. He says some 300 Ghanaians fled to Togo in early March because of the same land dispute.