MONROVIA—Four months of violence, looting and displacement have created a humanitarian crisis in Ivory Coast and Liberia which will take months and perhaps years to ease, said international humanitarian organization Oxfam today.
More than one million people have fled extreme violence in the Ivory Coast and are surviving in the open forest, living in overcrowded conditions in poor villages, or relying on local communities in neighboring Liberia.
“Oxfam is gearing up for a long-term humanitarian emergency and potential public health disaster,” said Oxfam’s Regional Humanitarian Coordinator Philippe Conraud in Ivory Coast. “The fall out of the past four months will be felt for a long time to come. Refugees need lifesaving aid immediately and support to help rebuild their lives over the coming months.
Many refugees, according to testimonies gathered by Oxfam, are too scared to return home in the immediate future and local communities, who have been providing food and shelter to displaced people, have nothing left to give.
“People have fled their home and sought safety in villages. Small communities have doubled or tripled in size with 60, 70, 80 people living under one roof. There is simply not enough water, food or space to go round. I met a nurse who left her job in a hospital in Abidjan in fear of her life. She is worried the lack of clean water will be devastating for her children who are already extremely fragile,” said Conraud.
The organization is installing water tanks, latrines and showers in Liberia, where more than 100,000 refugees have crossed the border, and has flown in supplies for 70,000 people. It is now expanding its focus into the Ivory Coast in response to the escalating humanitarian crisis in the country.
Staff on the ground in Liberia report difficult conditions for the refugees. In one Liberian village 45 people, including a woman who is seven months pregnant, sleep in a single mud house without access to basic services. In another Liberian village, a mother of three and 20 of her extended family are staying in a poor bamboo shelter--with only leaves to protect against the sun--after her husband was killed in western Ivory Coast.
“Oxfam is providing clean water and toilets to refugees in Liberia but it’s not enough. We need more resources to help us support already poor communities who are struggling to cope with the influx of refugees,” said Conraud.
To support Oxfam's response, please donate to the Ivory Coast/Liberia Refugee Crisis Fund.