As the number of Ivorian refugees crossing the border to nearby Liberia continues to rise, some aid organizations are concerned that large-scale international emergency relief operations could adversely affect the health care system and development in Liberia’s rural border communities.
Violence caused by the political stalemate in Ivory Coast has prompted thousands of its citizens to seek refuge in border communities in Liberia. The United Nations estimates that the number of Ivorian refugees in the area could reach more than 100,000 by April. International groups have started responding to the needs of the refugees by providing food and emergency medical services.
“The concern is that a large-scale international response would bypass or replace existing services and divert funding away from support for strengthening the Liberian health system,” the Guardian quotes Neil Waines, director of Equip Liberia, a non-governmental organization working on the border areas.
Waines argues that efforts to help refugees from Ivory Coast should be channeled through the Liberian health system, which, he says, needs additional support from international donors.
“We need to find a way of supporting the very vulnerable people coming over the border with honouring our responsibilities to the Liberian people. It’s going to be a very tough balancing act, and we’ve got a tough month ahead,” Waines says.
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