Four IRC health clinics in Liberian border towns are providing care for new arrivals. The facilities treated nearly 13,000 people in the month of December. The IRC is also providing drugs and medical supplies to a hospital in the town of Sanequelli, where patients from the clinics are being referred for more extensive treatment.
The IRC has also established programs at returnee transit centers in Karnplay and Loguatuo to prevent incidents of violence against women and to address the needs of victims. "This is a problem that always increases in conflict settings and there is not enough being done in this area," said the IRC's director in Liberia, Wubeshet Woldemariam. Among the measures being implemented are separating sanitation facilities for men and women and improving lighting at transit centers, and providing treatment and counseling to victims.
Since the fighting erupted in Côte d'Ivoire in November, more than 61,000 people have crossed into Liberia. The majority of the Liberians, who had sought refuge in Côte d'Ivoire during years of civil strife in Liberia, are returning to their communities of origin. Most of the newly uprooted Ivorians and third country nationals have found shelter at transit centers.
Thousands of Ivorian refugees and Guineans who had lived in Côte d'Ivoire have also crossed into Guinea and are being housed in camps originally erected for Liberian refugees. The IRC has set up emergency education programs for children and adolescents in the Nzerekore area, which is both a primary entry point for refugees and returnees and an area where the IRC has had a longtime presence.
Meanwhile, IRC emergency coordinators are conducting an assessment in Côte d'Ivoire to look at immediate humanitarian needs of the country's fast-growing internally displaced population. The IRC is considering emergency assistance in three towns where most IDPs are converging.
Woldemarian says the influx into neighboring countries has slowed, but continues. He said the outcome of talks in Paris between the Ivorian government and three rebel groups will have a significant influence on continuing population flows. "There are large numbers of people who have been uprooted by this conflict and humanitarian assistance is needed in every sector," he said.