International humanitarian organization Oxfam is increasing its humanitarian response effort in Liberia as tens of thousands of people make their way to the border area after the latest battles and political violence in the West African country of Ivory Coast. The agency is already providing clean water to refugees who have sought safety and assistance in neighboring Liberia and will be sending aid experts into northern Ivory Coast over the coming days.
"We are helping people who have walked for long days to reach the border, they are exhausted and in need of immediate assistance. Families in some poor border villages have been supporting refugees for months and have nothing left to give,” said Tariq Riebl, Oxfam's Humanitarian Manager in Liberia.
There are already more than 100,000 refugees who have fled to remote border villages in Liberia where Oxfam has set up water and sanitation facilities. The organization is working in transit sites in Grand Gedeh eastern Liberia and will be distributing essential relief to refugees, as well as helping families hosting refugees to restock dwindling food supplies.
Oxfam has flown in supplies for 70,000 people and will provide long-term support to local communities, many who have been generously helping refugees since the disputed election last November.
“This crisis has been kept in the shadows for far too long. Only now is the world recognizing the immense scale of the human suffering with more than one million people forced to flee their homes. Some have managed to make the difficult journey through the forest to some sort of sanctuary across the border in Liberia. We are getting aid to people who have fled but conditions for refugees are very difficult and we need a huge aid push to avoid a public health disaster,” said Riebl.
The full picture of the humanitarian crisis In Ivory Coast is yet to emerge, with close to one million people made homeless by the violence and insecurity hampering the few aid agencies operating in the country. Oxfam is sending in a team of experts this week to evaluate how to respond to the crisis, but the agency warns that any aid operation will be extremely difficult due to ongoing conflict.
“This aid operation will not be easy. Even when fighting ends, we know there will be months of work ahead to help people start to put their lives back together,” said Riebl.