At least 300,000 civilians still displaced in Côte d'Ivoire

Briefing Notes, 14 June 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 14 June 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

We are getting a clearer picture of displacement in Côte d'Ivoire two months after the resolution of the post-election crisis. Over the past three weeks, UNHCR and our partners have registered 322,277 internally displaced people (IDPs) across the country and registration is ongoing.

These displaced people are sheltered in IDP sites or with host families. Most are concentrated in the west (132,188), the north (62, 676) and Abidjan (55,912) in the south. They told our assessment teams that there are others still hiding in the bush. Local communities also told us that return conditions have improved in some of the areas that were worst affected by fighting. For example, in western Côte d'Ivoire's Zouan-Hounien and Teapleu areas, local communities are reporting significant improvements in the security situation.

By contrast, communal tensions are still high in the south-western Sassandra region. This was where more than 280 civilians were killed in early May by groups of mercenaries on the run from Abidjan. Many of the dead are buried in mass graves. Over 500 houses and a pharmacy were destroyed in five villages. An estimated 17,000 people are displaced in that region, including an unknown number reportedly still hiding in the forest.

Some of the IDPs are accused of having supported the mercenaries. The continued presence of armed vigilantes is also preventing the return of these displaced communities. UNHCR and our partners are finding new clusters of displaced people as we continue our assessment visits around the country. We have been delivering food and basic relief supplies to these new IDPs while continuing to support existing IDP sites and host families. At the same time, we are building new IDP camps to better assist and accommodate those unable to go back home for the time being.

There are still more than 200,000 Ivorian refugees hosted several West African countries.

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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: Arrival at Bahn CampPlay video

Liberia: Arrival at Bahn Camp

UNHCR has opened a new camp for up to 15,000 Ivorian refugees at Bahn in eastern Liberia. Follow the arrival of the first group.