Liberia + 1 more

UNHCR Liberia: Briefing Notes 9 Nov 2004

News and Press Release
Originally published
UNHCR Responds to Emergency at Liberia/Cote d'Ivoire Border
Since the outbreak of violence in Cote d'Ivoire on November 4, more than 1,250 Ivorians, mostly women and children and some elderly, have fled into Nimba county in northeastern Liberia. Local authorities say the sound of gunfire prompted the Ivorians to leave their homes.

The arrivals crossed into several entry points along the Liberia-Cote d'Ivoire border. Majority of them are encamped at the frontier town of Butuo, 80 kms west of the main Nimba town of Saclepea with difficulties to access due to the poor conditions of roads. Registration is being undertaken, by Liberian National Red Cross Society, in collaboration with local immigration officials and under the collaboration of UNHCR.

Liberian refugees in Cote d'Ivoire are also expected to form part of those fleeing the fighting using the main entry points in Nimba County - Loguatuo and Beleway. The two border entry points are 80 and 86 Km respectively from Saclepea

The arrivals carried some belongings and appeared in quite good condition. A convoy arranged by UNHCR, government agencies and NGOs dispatched emergency aid and medical teams to Butuo from Saclepea on Sunday. The assistance included blankets, plastic mats, soap, jerry cans, lanterns, plastic sheets from UNHCR. High protein biscuits are also been provided by WFP. UNHCR has reinforce its staff in the area of operation to respond to the growing number of arriving refugees

The Refugee Agency is also stepping up efforts to complete its 500-capacity transit center in Loguatou to provide temporary accommodation for those fleeing the hostilities. Meanwhile, refugees are hosted in three make shift facilities provided by the local authorities.

UNHCR has a refugee camp in Saclepea which was set up following the outbreak of civil war in Cote d'Ivoire two years ago. The camp, which still accommodates several hundred Ivorian refugees, can currently shelter 1,500 people, but bad roads make the travel from the border to Saclepea town extremely difficult.However LUSH, UNHCR's Implementing partner is in the process of rehabilitating the last two bridges on the Graie-Butuo road, having completed the first two.

The other area which reported an influx from Cote d'Ivoire since the weekend was Ghana, where 270 immigrant workers, mostly from Burkina Faso and Nigeria, have arrived. They came by bus through the Ghana border crossing at Elubo. An inter-agency mission is attending to their needs. Several wounded Malians from Cote d'Ivoire were evacuated to Mali for medical treatment.

UNHCR offices in the surrounding region of Cote d'Ivoire have been alerted for any contingencies. Planning in case of an outflow of Ivorians is in full swing, including an assessment of emergency stocks and staff. Most of our emergency supplies are in Liberia, where we have been preparing for the return of Liberian refugees since last year.

There have been no reported spontaneous arrivals of Liberian refugees from Cote d'Ivoire since the outbreak of violence last week. But if the situation in Cote d'Ivoire deteriorates, many of these refugees could go back. Most of the Liberian refugees in Cote d'Ivoire are in the Tabou region in the south.

Following the end in August 2003 of 14 years of civil strife in Liberia, more than 70,000 Liberian refugees have returned from neighboring countries. On Oct. 1, the first repatriation convoys under a three-year facilitated voluntary return program for the 340,000 Liberian refugees in the region was launched.

972 Liberians have returned with UNHCR from Sierra Leone and Ghana since Oct 1. The first airlift of 112 Liberian refugees from Nigeria arrived yesterday at the Robert International Airport and 3 flights per week are scheduled for this air operation. 6,000 people are accommodation in Oru refugee camp, Nigeria and 1,000 indicated so far their willingness to return home.

In addition the first convoy from Guinea will be arriving tomorrow at Ganta entry point, Nimba county. The first batch of over 300 returnees will be received by UNHCR Representative and the Executie Directot of LRRRC.

Reintegration Activities

As part of the 4Rs transitional planning process focusing on district and community level interventions; UNHCR together with FAO conducted a joint field mission. The UNHCR/FAO mission was tasked with establishing operational modalities to start the Agriculture Reintegration Programme (ARP) in Montserrado, Bong, Nimba and Grand Gedeh counties.

For this year inputs of seeds and tools are to support vegetable farming and over the next year the emphasis will be on the production and processing of rice the main staple in Liberia, as well as assisting returnees and host communities in agricultural activities through CEPs.

In the above mentioned counties FAO consultants have worked out information sharing, reporting and monitoring mechanisms with UNHCR sub/field offices. UNHCR offices in turn will support FAO field staff with administrative and logistical inputs.

From June to September 2004 UNHCR in partnership with UNDP has been active in establishing community based governance structures namely District Development Committees (DDCs) in Bong, Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties. In light of the limited capacity of elected DDC members UNHCR/UNDP plan to provide training to all DDCs.

The first three-day workshop for DDC members from Bong County was conducted from 21-23rd October in the Gbarnga Administrative Building. A total of 65 people attended the workshop 54 DDC members, 7 County officials and 4 NGO representatives. The workshop was conducted by the New African Research and Development Agency (NARDA).

In Lofa County, 19 communities were supplied with agriculture inputs. This support has enabled beneficiaries to start cultivating their farmland. Also in the county, nearly 100 latrine pits were dug in four districts. GTZ a UNHCR implementing partner has repaired some parts of the road in Lofa County. This is made possible as a result of reduction in the heavy rainfall.

In Maryland County, progress was reported during reporting period in relation to the rehabilitation of schools funded by UNHCR. While in Little Wlebo, school supplies procured by UNHCR are now available for distribution among primary refugee students. In the same county, MERCI, another UNHCR implementing partner started the supply of drugs at seven community-based clinics. Rehabilitation work at the Pleebo clinic was also completed. Work at other clinics will soon commence with cessation of the rains, which made movement in the interior difficult. World Vision International, another UNHCR health partner is constructing more latrines to address the sanitation problem in Maryland County.