Agency warns of potential regional crisis as thousands flee to neighbouring countries
International agency Oxfam today launched a £10 million appeal for its work helping people caught up in political violence in the West African country of Ivory Coast. The agency is already providing clean water to refugees who have sought safety and assistance in neighbouring Liberia and will be sending aid experts into northern Ivory Coast over the coming days.
"This crisis has been kept in the shadows for far too long. Only now is the world recognising the immense scale of the human suffering with more than one million people forced to flee their homes. Some have managed to make the difficult journey through the forest to some sort of sanctuary across the border in Liberia. We are getting aid to people who have fled but conditions for refugees are very difficult and we need a huge aid push to avoid a public health disaster," said Tariq Riebl, Oxfam's Humanitarian Manager in Liberia.
The agency warned that thousands of people are reported to be making their way to the border area after the latest battles and violence against civilians. There are already more than 100,000 refugees who have fled to remote border villages in Liberia where Oxfam has set up water and sanitation facilities. The agency is working in transit sites in Grand Gedeh eastern Liberia and will be distributing essential relief to refugees, as well as helping families hosting refugees to restock dwindling food supplies.
"We are helping people who have walked for long days to reach the border, they are exhausted and in need of immediate assistance. Families in some poor border villages have been supporting refugees for months and have nothing left to give," said Riebl.
Oxfam has flown in supplies for 70,000 people and will provide long-term support to local communities, many who have been generously helping refugees since the disputed election last November.
The full picture of the humanitarian crisis In Ivory Coast is yet to emerge, with close to one million people made homeless by the violence and insecurity hampering the few aid agencies operating in the country. Oxfam is sending in a team of experts this week to evaluate how to respond to the crisis, but the agency warns that any aid operation will be extremely difficult due to ongoing conflict.
"This aid operation will not be easy. There are huge needs and a logistical mountain to climb but with the support of the British public we will be able to make a difference to the lives of many highly vulnerable people.
"Even when fighting ends, we know there will be months of work ahead to help people start to put their lives back together," said Riebl.
To donate to Oxfam's appeal, phone 0300 200 1999, go to www.oxfam.org.uk/ivorycoast or text "DONATE" to 70066 to give £5*
From more information contact:
Caroline Gluck, Monrovia: firstname.lastname@example.org +44 7867 976041 or +231 76 690 164
Olivier Germain, Monrovia: email@example.com +23177916323
Charles Bambara, Dakar: firstname.lastname@example.org + 221 77 639 41 78
Anna Ridout, Oxford: email@example.com +44 (0)7766 443506
Notes to editors:
*SMS texts charged at your standard network rates. We will receive around 85% of your donation depending on your network supplier.
Tariq Riebl is available for interview on the Ivory Coast-Liberia border.
Photos and broadcast-quality footage are available.
The UN has asked for 146.5 million US dollars to cope with the refugee crisis but only a quarter has been made available so far.
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