UNHCR to establish new camp in Liberia for refugees from Côte d'Ivoire

Press Releases, 31 December 2010

© UNHCR
Map of Liberia. Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2011 Update

GENEVA The UN refugee agency will set up a special camp to shelter the thousands of refugees from Côte d'Ivoire seeking safety in neighbouring Liberia. The more than 18,000 Ivorians who have fled chaos and fear of violence in Côte d'Ivoire following November's disputed presidential election have strained the resources of the local communities hosting them.

Ivorian refugees started to arrive in Liberian border towns on 29 November. As of yesterday (30 December), UNHCR had registered 18,091 refugees and our staff continue to register new arrivals. Some 55 per cent of those arriving are women, while 62 per cent of arrivals are under 18 years of age.

UNHCR will also deploy additional staff to reinforce its emergency team in Liberia. These personnel will be essential for establishing the new camp close to the town of Saclepea in Nimba County, where refugees are currently hosted.

A camp site planner and a health expert arrived in Liberia on Thursday with more staff to be deployed within days. The site planner is due to travel to the Saclepea area this weekend, while work on the camp is expected to start next week. Until now, local communities have hosted the refugees. But with an average of 400-500 arriving daily, it has become increasingly difficult for host communities to cope.

Meanwhile, our teams in Liberia continue to distribute emergency aid in villages where refugees are sheltered. Once registered, refugees receive plastic sheeting, blankets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, kerosene, lamps, soap, buckets, mosquito nets and other basic household items.

UNHCR has pre-positioned aid in the region to assist 30,000 Ivorian refugees and has spent some US$3 million to provide relief items from its emergency reserves. We will need donor support to continue our aid efforts in Liberia.

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New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

As of late March, more than 100,000 Ivorian refugees had crossed into eastern Liberia since lingering political tension from a disputed presidential election in neighbouring Côte d' Ivoire erupted into violence in February. Most have gone to Liberia's Nimba County, but in a sign that the fighting has shifted, some 6,000 Ivorians recently fled across the border into Liberia's Grand Gedeh County. Most of the new arrivals have settled in remote villages - some inaccessible by car. The UN refugee agency sent a mission to assess the needs of the refugees in the region.

Photographer Glenna Gordon photographed new arrivals near Zwedru in south-eastern Liberia.

New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

UNHCR has expressed its mounting concern about civilians trapped in the Abobo district of Cote d'Ivoire's commercial centre, Abidjan, following days of fierce fighting between forces loyal to rival presidential candidates. The situation there remains grim. Many of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Abobo have fled, but armed groups are reportedly preventing others from leaving. UNHCR is particularly concerned about vulnerable people, such as the sick and the elderly, who may not be able to leave.

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

UNHCR has begun transferring refugees from Côte d'Ivoire to a new refugee camp in the north-eastern Liberian town of Bahn. Over the coming weeks UNHCR hopes to move up to 15,000 refugees into the facility, which has been carved out of the jungle. They are among almost 40,000 civilians from Côte d'Ivoire who have fled to escape mounting political tension in their country since the presidential election in late November.

The final number of people to move to Bahn will depend on how many wish to be relocated.from villages near the Liberia-Côte d'Ivoire border. Initially most of the refugees were taken in by host communities, living side-by-side with locals. Poor road conditions made it difficult for humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance. Supplies of food, medicine and water have been running low, making conditions difficult for both locals and refugees.

At the camp in Bahn, refugees will have easy access to basic services such as health care, clean water and primary school education.

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

Liberia: A Neighbour's HelpPlay video

Liberia: A Neighbour's Help

Alphonse Gonglegbe fled to Liberia with his family a few months ago. He appreciates the help he's been receiving in this land neighbouring his native Côte d'Ivoire.
Liberia: Hurried FlightPlay video

Liberia: Hurried Flight

Tens of thousands of Ivorians have fled their villages and sought shelter in Liberia. Francis says he ran for his life and now he wants safety and food.
Liberia: Settling InPlay video

Liberia: Settling In

A dozen new shelters are built every day in Liberia's Bahn refugee camp. Eventually there will be 3,000 shelters for some of the many civilians who have fled from neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire.