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Ivory Coast refugee numbers set to rise

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An ongoing ‘precarious’ security and political situation in Ivory Coast is expected to swell the number of refugees seeking safety in Liberia to at least 250,000 by the end of June.

Unicef predicts the figure could even be as high as 500,000, as the crisis shows no sign of easing despite the arrest of former president Laurent Gbagbo.

Tearfund partners are helping thousands of Ivorians who have fled to Liberia, the vast majority of whom are women and children.

Latest UN estimates say more than 140,000 refugees are now in Liberia, with 45,000 arriving in one county in just over a month.

Tearfund partners are providing healthcare to the displaced in Nimba County and positioning to provide clean water and sanitation and to distribute food in the adjacent Grand Geddeh County.

The World Food Programme has begun airlifting food into Liberia from Niger and Mali but Unicef says the lack of supplies is a ‘major concern’.

Rain problems

Another concern is that April marks the start of the rainy season and this could make getting relief aid to people harder as poor quality roads become impassable.

In Ivory Coast itself, although Alassane Ouattara is now in control, there are still pockets of resistance to his forces and outbreaks of lawlessness.

Tearfund partners in Ivory Coast are to join a multi-agency assessment on returning to the western town of Duekoue, where fighting forced them to stop working three weeks ago.

Prior to their withdrawal, partners provided clean water for more than 30,000 displaced people.