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

UNHCR decides to establish a camp in Liberia to shelter refugees fleeing from neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire. Some 18,000 people have fled to Liberia.

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

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.

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

"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.