Liberia: Resources running low for Côte d'Ivoire refugees and locals alike
Refugees fleeing tensions in Côte d'Ivoire are still crossing the border into north-eastern Liberia, although the number of new arrivals is decreasing by the day. As of yesterday, more than 10,000 refugees have been registered in just two catchment areas, Butuo and Gborplay. The actual figures, however, could be much higher since Ivorians are coming into Liberia through several official and non-official crossing points along the Cestos River.
Some of the refugees are starting to move into four emergency shelters UNHCR has just finished building in its temporary transit centre in the small town of Butuo, 2 km from the border, where over 5,000 refugees have been registered. Until now, the refugees had been staying with local people, some of whom have given shelter and shared their meagre resources with up to nine or ten refugees.
However, local resources are now running very low. Devastated by years of civil war and just beginning to get back on its feet, Liberia has barely enough food, medicine and potable water for its own people. There is only one water pump in Butuo itself, with three others scattered in surrounding villages. At the local health clinic, UNHCR is rehabilitating the well, and building more rooms and latrines. We have also donated motorcycles to local aid agencies so they can reach out to the refugees arriving in the more remote parts of the area, which are inaccessible by other vehicles due to the poor state of the roads.
Women form the largest group among the refugees, who come from three main areas in western Côte d'Ivoire, near the buffer zone between the northern rebels and the government forces. The situation in the area is reportedly calm, but refugees say that they are scared that fighting will flare up again between the rebels and the government.
Côte d'Ivoire also shelters some 70,000 Liberian refugees who fled the 14-year civil war that laid the country to ruins and ended only last year. Some 12,000 of these refugees are in two camps, one near Guiglo the other in Touba. UNHCR is working to ensure the refugees are protected, and is calling on all sides to respect the civilian nature of the camps.