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Humanitarian Crisis at Liberian-Ivory Coast Border

Liberia's Health Minister says the ongoing fighting in Ivory Coast has created a humanitarian crisis at the Liberian border. He describes the situation as "alarming."

Health Minister Peter Coleman says over the past few days nearly 35 thousand people have crossed over into Liberia from neighboring Ivory Coast. He says the influx of refugees followed attacks by rebels on several Ivorian towns close to the Liberian border.

Minister Coleman says the government is unable to respond to the worsening humanitarian crisis at the border.

He says, "Given the fragility of our health system and our ability to respond to such a crisis, we have combined efforts with our partners - the international NGOs and other donor agencies - to offer initial assistance to these people."

Dr. Coleman says the crisis at the border is made worse by a growing level of donor fatigue towards Liberia. But he says immediate steps must be taken to contain the situation.

He says, "With this type of humanitarian crisis at our border now and within this country, we definitely will like to launch an appeal international community that I mean - they know already the magnitude or the scale of the crisis that we have at the border. So there's an urgent need to provide not only medicine or vaccines - but shelter, food and other basic essentials for survival for these people - because most of them had to leave the Man, Danane and Toulepleu areas with nothing. And these people have to be cared for."

The Liberian Health Minister says the government has initially responded to the situation by sending a few vehicles to transport some of those arriving at the border crossings.

Dr. Coleman says government has also dispatched some food to the area, but maintains that it is not sufficient to deal with the crisis.

Liberia's Chief Medical Officer and officials of the World Health Organization or W-H-O have traveled to the border region to further assess the situation.

Reports say thousands of Liberian returnees and Ivorian refugees have been sleeping in the open for some days now at the border town of Loguatou in northeastern Liberia.

A small number of these returnees and refugees has already begun arriving here in Monrovia.