UNHCR beefs up Côte d'Ivoire preparedness, as political crisis deepens

UNHCR ready to cope with the needs of up to 30,000 Ivorian refugees after airlifting additional supplies to Liberia and Guinea from emergency stockpile.

A group of people who fled from Côte d'Ivoire meet with UNHCR staff in Guinea earlier this month.  © UNHCR/J. Katunda

GENEVA, December 21 (UNHCR) - UNHCR said on Friday that it has been beefing up its contingency arrangements for Côte d'Ivoire in light of the continued instability there.

"Ahead of the weekend we airlifted additional supplies to Liberia and Guinea from our emergency stockpile in Copenhagen," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva. "We currently stand ready to cope with the needs of up to 30,000 refugees."

As of now, the number of Ivorians having fled westwards into Liberia and Guinea stands at around 6,200. Of this total, 6,000 are in the Nimba County area of eastern Liberia with the rest in Guinea. Most are women and children seeking protective refuge and, thus far, only a handful of those in Liberia have reported actual beatings.

"We are not at this stage seeing Ivorians fleeing to Burkina Faso, Ghana or Mali," Edwards said. He added that because most refugees are in Liberia, "We have deployed additional staff to Nimba County to ensure greater border monitoring, proper registration of the incoming refugees and to hand out relief items."

UNHCR has set up registration centres in 16 villages where the agency is also distributing blankets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, kerosene lamps, soap and plastic sheeting as it records refugee families.

The Liberian government has itself distributed 1.8 metric tons of rice and has repaired water pumps in some villages to improve the supply of clean water, which has been in short supply since the influx began on November 29.