More than 100,000 refugees have fled into Liberia to escape escalating violence in Côte d’Ivoire. Most of the refugees are women and children. Thousands more are crossing the border every week. The new arrivals have been welcomed in Liberia, and many have been taken in by local families.
The sheer number of refugees is placing an enormous strain on already meagre supplies of food and water in Liberian communities. The population of Glarlay, a village near the border, has doubled in the last few weeks. “This is already one of the poorest places in the world,” says CAFOD’s Antonio Cabral.
Patrice Doho, 35, fled from Côte d’Ivoire on 24 February. “ We heard shooting all around us,” says Patrice. “The children were in floods of tears. We didn’t have time to collect our possessions, we just fled.” The family walked for two days to reach the border, and spent what little money they had on crossing the river into Liberia. Photograph: Karen Kasmasuki for CAFOD
Now Patrice and his extended family are staying in Glarlay. 24 people are living in one small house. “When we arrived, they welcomed us as brothers and sisters,” says Patrice. “But we need mattresses to sleep on. And I need tools so I can work. There is little hope of us going home any time soon.”
Adolph, 22, was also forced to flee after hearing heavy gunfire near his village. With his father still in Côte d’Ivoire, Adolph is taking responsibility for the 17 relatives who travelled with him. “ We are very grateful to our hosts in Glarlay,” says Adolph, “But the houses we are staying in are tiny. What we need most is food and material so that we can build shelters of our own.” “ We haven’t heard any news from home.” Photograph: Karen Kasmasuki for CAFOD
Food-stocks in Glarlay are running dangerously low, and most people are eating nothing but cassava and plantain. Normally the village’s reserves of food would last until March. But this year, reserves ran out in January.
The roads near Glarlay are already in a very poor state, and are likely to deteriorate as the rainy season begins. That means that it will become increasingly difficult to deliver aid. We’re acting now to distribute seeds, tools, mattresses, blankets and cooking equipment to refugees.
We have pledged more than £200,000 to provide vital supplies, as well as to build shelters and latrines and to set up projects that protect children. But this is a desperate situation, and we need to do more. “ It’s inspiring to see the compassion that Liberians are showing towards their neighbours,” says CAFOD’s Antonio Cabral. “ But more refugees are crossing the border all the time. It’s vital that we act to help them now.”
Picture credits: Antonio Cabral/CAFOD, Philippe Mougin/CAFOD, Luc Gnago/Reuters, courtesy of alertnet Help us support the refugees>>