Côte d'Ivoire

Refugee numbers rise steeply in Ivory Coast

4 April 2010

Guialahinon Collette is one of a million people to be uprooted by violence in troubled Ivory Coast.

She fled from her cocoa farm in Toulopleu District as fierce fighting between the country's two leading political groups intensified around her.

Guialahinon and her children spent six days on the run in the bush before eventually making it to the relative safety of neighbouring Liberia, where she is among 110,000 Ivorians seeking refuge.

The family are staying with a Liberian community near the border but Guialahinon is worried because she doesn't know what has happened to her husband.


'Right now my heart is disturbed, so I don't know what the future holds,' she says. 'My plan is to just stay alive.'

It's five months since Ivory Coast's election crisis began between incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.

More than 1,000 people have been killed and there's no sign of clashes abating soon, despite international pressure and UN Security Council demands.

Forces loyal to Mr Ouattara recently launched a new offensive which has resulted in large numbers of civilians fleeing the hostilities.

Bapatope Akinwande, Tearfund's Country Representative for Ivory Coast, said there had been a mass exodus of people leaving the capital to the point where it is almost empty.

Up to one million Ivorians have fled fighting in Abidjan alone, according to the UN Refugee Agency

'People are being displaced into Liberia and as far away as Mali and Burkina Faso,' said Bapatope. 'It's becoming a very grave humanitarian situation.'

Tearfund partner MAP, which is working in the western town of Douekoue, is providing water and sanitation to 24,000 internally displaced people.

Partner aid

In recent days, staff have found themselves in the middle of fighting between pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara forces.

That fighting has led to 40,000 displaced people now needing help in Douekoue, almost 20,000 more since MAP did an aid assessment in February.

Across the west of Ivory Coast, a consortium of six Tearfund partners are undertaking health, water and sanitation projects to help displaced people. The level of need is underlined by the fact that there are areas where 240,000 people have access to only ten toilets.

In neighbouring Liberia, fellow partner Equip is providing healthcare for Ivorian refugees.