As Ivorian Violence Continues, Liberia Grapples with Refugee Crisis

Displaced Ivorians cross a river that borders Ivory Coast and Liberia. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees predicts that up to 250,000 Ivorians would flee to Liberia to escape political-related violence in their country. Photo by: Derek Markwell / U.K. Department for International Development

As many as 250,000 Ivorian refugees could flee to neighboring Liberia by June to escape the political-related violence in their country, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees warns.

Some 1 million people have already left their homes in Ivory Coast amid the conflict stemming from the refusal of incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo to hand over power to Alassane Ouattara, who is recognized by the international community as the winner of November’s polls, The Telegraph reports.

Aid agencies are scrambling to address needs as Ivorian refugees move back and forth over the border, according to Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Sulaiman Momodu.

“We are in an emergency. We are trying to stabilise and move to the regular thing that happens in a refugee situation, where you establish camps,” Momodu was quoted by IPS as saying. “But there’s a need for people to move.

Aid group Oxfam has warned that more than 100,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia are at risk of losing their access to aid as the rainy season approaches.

“People have fled violence and are now living with families in Liberia in remote jungle areas along the border,” Oxfam spokesperson Caroline Gluck was quoted by online news outlet DefenceWeb as saying. “When the rains come, we will not be able to reach them with aid because the whole area will become inaccessible. The clock is ticking to get people to safe and reachable areas.”

European Union humanitarian chief Kristalina Georgieva has appealed for humanitarian access in conflict-ravaged Ivory Coast.

“I hope the Ivorian leadership realises the importance that the international community attaches to the full compliance with international humanitarian law. Humanitarian organisations which are there to help people in need must be allowed to continue their work in an impartial and neutral way,” she said in a statement.

Aid agency Save the Children, meanwhile, is seeking $40 million to help address the needs of some 650,000 peole in Ivory Coast and Liberia.

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About the author

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    Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.