Emergency team deployed to Benin as Togo crisis deepens
GENEVA, April 28 (UNHCR) - As refugees fleeing general insecurity in Togo continue to cross into neighbouring Benin, UNHCR is deploying an emergency team to the country and trucking in further non-food supplies from its regional warehouse in Accra, Ghana, via Burkina Faso.
"The situation is still volatile in Togo and refugees are fleeing general insecurity, mainly into Benin. But many of them are telling us they want to stay close to the border to see if the situation settles down and they can return," said UNHCR's Africa bureau director, David Lambo.
By mid-day Thursday, more than 3,623 refugees had arrived in Benin since the election results were announced on Tuesday, with 2,000 crossing overnight on Wednesday - the majority of them women and children. Over 500 of the refugees have been transferred to Come camp, 80 km from the capital Cotonou, where there is shelter, water and sanitation. In Athieme in southern Benin, where some 100 refugees arrived on Tuesday, only 19 refugees remain, as most preferred to join relatives in the area or move elsewhere. But as the security situation across the border in Togo is uncertain, all have opted to remain in Benin.
In Ghana, some 450 refugees have sought shelter, but there are initial reports of small numbers of new arrivals in the Dzozde district and Akatsi/Keta area fleeing general insecurity. A UNHCR mission is underway to check on the situation and verify the new arrivals.
"Generally the situation in Ghana is stable, with just small groups of people arriving, most of whom hope to be able to return to their home villages in the near future once things calm down," said UNHCR's Representative in Ghana, Thomas Albrecht.
UNHCR is mobilising funds and personnel to meet the demands of the new refugee influx. On Thursday, $500,000 was requested from the agency's operational reserve to meet the immediate financial needs of the operation. In addition, a three-person emergency team of protection, programme and community services staff will deploy to Benin over the weekend to boost staff numbers already on the ground. Another three-person emergency team is on standby to be deployed at short notice.
In Ghana, the refugee agency is today loading up a convoy of four 10-tonne trucks to start taking non-food items for 5,000 people from its regional warehouse in Accra to Cotonou, where supplies for 2,500 people had already been pre-positioned. The 1,600-km journey via Burkina Faso is expected to last three days and the trucks will remain in Benin to assist with the delivery of assistance to refugees.
By Jennifer Pagonis