Ghana influx grows as fighting flares across Côte d'Ivoire

Briefing Notes, 1 April 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 1 April 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Surging violence in Côte d'Ivoire is pushing more refugees eastwards into Ghana. Some 1,300 Ivorians entered Ghana this week after fleeing fresh fighting in Côte d'Ivoire's west (Duékoué), centre (Daloa) and north-east (Bondoukou). Another 250 arrived from Abidjan, where security conditions are precarious.

Until now, Ivorian refugees had been fleeing mainly from Abidjan and entering south-western Ghana via the Elubo border point. But with this week's clashes, we are seeing more people crossing through border points further north in Sampa and Atuna, in the Brong Ahafo Region. UNHCR is not present in the region, but has sent a team to assess their needs and provide assistance.

Most refugees are women and children. They reach Ghana by bus with few belongings. Some say they traveled eight hours to the south-western border town in Elubo, while others spent as many as four days reaching the border point in Sampa, at the midpoint of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire's shared border.

Several of the refugee families told UNHCR they fled due to fear of violence while some had witnessed or experienced violence in their communities. One 11-year old girl, who UNHCR staff came across in Elubo, recounted being abducted and raped. Her mother later discovered her unconscious on a roadside in the outskirts of Abidjan. UNHCR is providing her with medical assistance and counseling.

Most refugees in Ghana are currently accommodated in host communities. Some 1,700 of them are also staying in a new camp set up by UNHCR and the Ghanaian authorities in Ampain, 55 km from the Elubo border point. In anticipation of further arrivals into Ghana, the government has expressed readiness to allocate sites in the coastal and mid-western areas of the country to build further camps.

This week's wave of arrivals brings to over 5,000 the estimated number of Ivorian refugees now in Ghana.

The number of Ivorian refugees continues to sharply rise in Liberia, particularly in Grand Gedeh County in the southeast, where 30,017 have been registered. As of yesterday (Thursday), there were a total of 122, 958 refugees registered in both Nimba, Maryland and Grand Gedeh counties since the post-election crisis started in late November.

Most new arrivals in Grand Gedeh are in dire need of food, shelter and clothing. One family says the father died of hunger on the way to Liberia. In some locations, refugees survive by doing daily-wage labour for the local population, making about US$1.50 per day by brushing farms or by fetching wood.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

In Monrovia: Sulaiman Momodu on mobile +231 649 38 62

In Accra: Ewurabena Hutchful on moible +233 244 33 19 25

In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483