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UNHCR building refugee camp in Liberia for initial 18,000 Ivorians


UNHCR building refugee camp in Liberia for initial 18,000 Ivorians

UNHCR starts constructing a camp in the eastern Liberian town of Bahn for thousands of Ivorian refugees. The camp is being carved out of the jungle.
11 January 2011
A group of refugees from Côte d'Ivoire wait to be registered in eastern Liberia.

MONROVIA, Liberia, January 11 (UNHCR) - With people continuing to flee westwards from Côte d'Ivoire, UNHCR has started constructing a new camp for refugees in the eastern Liberian town of Bahn. The camp will initially be capable of housing some 18,000 refugees.

UNHCR site planners and the local community are working together to clear 80 hectares (200 acres) of jungle for the camp, which lies on land provided by the Liberian authorities.

There are now an estimated 25,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia, with around 600 people arriving daily because of the tension and uncertainty that has pervaded life in Côte d'Ivoire since the presidential election in late November. Refugees continue to tell UNHCR staff that, in most cases, they are fleeing fear of violence rather than actual violence against them.

The camp at Bahn is urgently needed to better protect the refugees and to ease pressure on Liberian communities that have been hosting people in some 23 villages along the border.

"UNHCR hopes to complete work over the next two weeks on a reception area at the Bahn site from which refugees will be relocated into the main camp. The site will provide services including health, water, sanitation and schooling," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the refugee agency continues to deliver aid to villages where refugees are located. On Tuesday morning, UNHCR began distribution of plastic sheeting, blankets, mats, kitchen sets and other household items to the more than 10,000 refugees in the Buutuo area bordering Côte d'Ivoire's Guiglo department.

In eastern Liberia, UNHCR is operating from a field office in the town of Saclepea, a five-hour drive from Buutuo over an extremely poor road connected by more than 22 bridges made of sticks and tree trunks. The camp at Bahn will be more manageable as it is located 12 kilometres from Saclepea and requires only 20 minutes of driving time.

UNHCR has sufficient relief supplies for some 30,000 people in Liberia. However, the agency is ready to mobilize stocks from Ghana for an additional 30,000 people if the need arises.

Meanwhile, some 16,000 people in western Côte d'Ivoire have been forced to leave their villages and take refuge in the towns of Duékoué, Man and Danané. Calm has returned to Duékoué in the past three days, which is allowing UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies to assist the displaced.

By Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba in Monrovia, Liberia