One year ago the first Ivorian refugees arrived to the refugee camp Little Wlebo in Liberia. The camp managed by The Danish Refugee Council was to be temporary – but is now a home for almost 5000 refugees.
On Saturday May 5th the refugee community in Little Wlebo celebrated the one year anniversary of their crossing from Cote d’Ivoire into Liberia. Experiences were shared in speeches from the Danish Refugee Council Camp Management, UNHCR and Refugee representatives and progress of the camp was discussed before the stage was given on to choral performances, Ivorian rap acts and dancing.
36 year old Raymond Omplou was among the first to arrive at Little Wlebo, when the camp was still considered a temporary place to live for refugees in need of shelter.
“At first the camp was very basic and we lived in communal shelters but then DRC brought construction materials and assisted us with building houses, Oxfam started to build latrines and we got a clinic in the camp. One year on and the camp keeps improving. I feel safe. People are taking good care of us. We have shelter, clean water, food and no sickness,” says Raymond Omplou.
Little Wlebo is today home of 4695 refugees. As refugees do not feel that it is secure for them to return to Cõte d'Ivoire yet, the camp facilities are being improved to fit the reality of a refugee community that is to stay for some time. Among other things shelters are being improved with mudwalling and zinc roofs, a youth centre is being constructed and security concerns are being met.
“The refugee community fear they are being targeted by militia from across the border. In response to growing concerns, we have commenced gating and fencing of the open access points on the camp perimeter from the road. The aim is to ensure all vehicles access the camp through the two security check points, and to make sure non resident motorbikes will be stopped and denied access to the camp,” says Elsa Moreno Cardenas, DRC Desk Officer for West Africa.
Lack of livelihood opportunities is a concern of people living in a refugee camp, among the solutions has been for DRC to find some land for agricultural development.
“The older male population, especially, has expressed interest in cultivation. Therefore we are happy that land has been allocated for agricultural development. The refugee community has already started clearing the land and DRC is procuring seeds, tools and insecticides,” say Elsa Moreno Cardenas.