News / Africa

UNHCR Says More Refugees Fleeing Ivory Coast

Ivorian refugees at makeshift camp in Bossou village, Guinea
Ivorian refugees at makeshift camp in Bossou village, Guinea

The United Nations refugee agency reports the number of people fleeing Ivory Coast continues to rise. It says more than 4,200 Ivorians now have fled fearing an eruption of civil war in the wake of the disputed elections in their country.

The UNHCR says some 200 Ivorian refugees have gone to Guinea. So far, there has been no refugee movement toward Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mali, according to the agency.

But, this could quickly change.  UNHCR says it is prepared and has supplies ready in all five countries should there be a mass movement of people from Ivory Coast.

Spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming says she expects refugee numbers to reach at least 5,000 by early next week.  Fleming says the number of Ivorians needing assistance now is large and could potentially become much larger.

"It is very difficult to predict violence or to predict the outcome of this dispute.  It could very well result in fighting that would cause people to flee.  And, all I can say is that we are prepared," Fleming said.  "But, I would not want to speculate about  what is going to happen.  We do notice that the people who have come over-it is kind of pre-emptive fear of what is going to happen and not necessarily because they have been directly threatened.  Because the tension in the country is making them very nervous." 

Slideshow of Ivorian Refugees in Guinea

The International community considers Alassane Ouattara to have won last month's disputed Presidential election.  His opponent, the previous President, Laurent Gbagbo rejects international calls for him to step down.

Both men claim victory and have set up competing presidential administrations.  The current standoff took a violent turn on Thursday when Oattara supporters clashed with troops loyal to Gbagbo.  At least 20 people were killed according to a spokeswoman for Gbagbo, while supporters of Ouattara say the death toll is at least 30.  

The UNHCR reports most of the Ivorians who have arrived in Liberia are women and children.  It says local communities are generously sharing their modest homes and limited resources with them.

The agency says the refugees urgently need food, clean water, sanitation facilities, clothing, and basic hygiene items.

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