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Ivory Coast Refugees: Concern Responds

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Concern is providing lifesaving humanitarian aid to refugees who have fled to Liberia from conflict-ridden Ivory Coast. In Grand Gedeh County, Concern is managing essential relief services for 30,000 refugees, most of whom are women and children uprooted from their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Concern has been helping to clear areas in Ziah town to make way for new camps that will house a total of 30,000 refugees in Grand Gedeh County. Photo: Liberia, Concern Worldwide The ongoing crisis in Ivory Coast was sparked by a struggle between President-elect Alassane Outtara and former President Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to cede power. Militias loyal to Gbagbo triggered a renewed civil war, which has killed an estimated 3,000 people and displaced more than one million. Gbagbo was arrested April 11 by forces loyal to Ouattara, but as of May 4, fighting continues in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s capital.

RACING AGAINST TIME: CONCERN IN ACTION

Concern Worldwide, working closely with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other partners, has been racing against time to pre-position vital relief supplies; set up waystations and transit sites; build wells and latrines; and provide temporary shelter to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of vulnerable refugees before the onset of the rainy season in May, when roads become impassable. Liberia’s rainy season yields the highest rainfall in Africa, with approximately 3.5 meters expected in the next few months alone. Tens of thousands of vulnerable women and children are depending on the generosity of host communities and the support of aid agencies for their very survival.

A Concern-managed transit center in Ziah town. Photo: Liberia, Concern Worldwide Concern is responding in Grand Gedeh County, where more than 62,000 refugees have been registered, and is the lead agency providing emergency water and sanitation and managing overall services for refugees.

Way stations and transit sites have been set up by Concern and UNHCR along the 50 kilometer route from Tempo in Ivory Coast across the border and into Ziah Town in Liberia. The huge influx of refugees is straining the minimal food and water supplies of already vulnerable host communities. As of the end of April, more than 165,000 refugees were being hosted in Liberia overall.

Following an assessment in early March, Concern set up two transit sites that will provide essential food, water, sanitation, and temporary, short-term emergency shelter for up to 5,000 refugees each. UNHCR has set up additional standalone “way stations” along the route from Tempo in Ivory Coast to Ziah Town in Liberia: these stations provide a resting place, clean water and other relief items, and emergency latrines for up to 1,500 refugees each. Concern is establishing emergency water sources and building trench latrines along the refugee route. Concern will also distribute tools and seeds for 3,000 refugee “households” that will have access to farm plots provided by host families.

“Thankfully, there is a tradition of very close family, trade and other links along the border regions of Ivory Coast and Liberia, which is proving very positive in a situation of few positives. This is critical in terms of the host communities’ willingness to assist and support refugee populations with food, shelter and farm plots,” said Ros O’Sullivan, Emergency Response Coordinator for Concern Worldwide’s global Emergency Response Team.

IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES

Rehabilitate 25 wells in host communities along the refugee route and in Ba’o Town and Ziah town

Repair and build 50 latrines in host communities

Build emergency trench latrines in key population centers (including refugee transit sites and way stations)

Provide emergency water and sanitation to refugee populations and host communities

Distribute seeds and tools to refugees living in host communities

Concern has been working in Liberia since 1996. Over the last 15 years, our programs have focused on improving access to food, water, health services, and education for the absolute poorest people.

Please help us provide a lifesaving safety net for women and children seeking refuge from violence in Liberia