UNHCR to set up refugee camp in Liberia as Ivorians continue to flee

News Stories, 31 December 2010

© UNHCR/J.Katunda
Refugees from Côte d'Ivoire board a UNHCR truck.

MONROVIA, Liberia, December 31 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said on Friday that it will establish a camp in Liberia to shelter the more than 18,000 refugees who have fled from neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire over the past few weeks.

A camp site planner arrived in Liberia on Thursday, along with a health expert, to beef up UNHCR's emergency response team in Liberia. Work on the new camp is expected to begin next week.

More staff are expected to arrive in the coming days and they will play a key role in establishing the camp in the north-east Liberian border town of Saclepea. The camp is needed because the growing number of arrivals is straining the resources of the local communities that are hosting the refugees in border areas.

More than 18,000 Ivorians are known to have crossed the border into Liberia to escape uncertainty, chaos and the fear of violence since late November's presidential election in Côte d'Ivoire. UNHCR staff estimated that 400-500 Ivorians are arriving in Liberia every day, with about 55 per cent of them women and 62 per cent of all arrivals aged under 18.

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

"Our teams in Liberia continue to distribute emergency aid across villages where refugees are sheltered. Once registered, refugees receive plastic sheeting, blankets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, kerosene, lamps, buckets, soap, mosquito nets and other basic household items," said a statement issued by UNHCR.

It added that UNHCR had pre-positioned aid in the region to assist 30,000 refugees from Côte d'Ivoire and had spent some US$3 million to provide relief to the refugees from its emergency reserves. "We will need donor support to keep continuing our aid efforts in Liberia," the statement said.

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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.