UNHCR beefs up Côte d'Ivoire preparedness, as political crisis deepens

News Stories, 21 December 2010

© UNHCR/J. Katunda
A group of people who fled from Côte d'Ivoire meet with UNHCR staff in Guinea earlier this month.

GENEVA, December 21 (UNHCR) UNHCR said on Friday that it has been beefing up its contingency arrangements for Côte d'Ivoire in light of the continued instability there.

"Ahead of the weekend we airlifted additional supplies to Liberia and Guinea from our emergency stockpile in Copenhagen," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva. "We currently stand ready to cope with the needs of up to 30,000 refugees."

As of now, the number of Ivorians having fled westwards into Liberia and Guinea stands at around 6,200. Of this total, 6,000 are in the Nimba County area of eastern Liberia with the rest in Guinea. Most are women and children seeking protective refuge and, thus far, only a handful of those in Liberia have reported actual beatings.

"We are not at this stage seeing Ivorians fleeing to Burkina Faso, Ghana or Mali," Edwards said. He added that because most refugees are in Liberia, "We have deployed additional staff to Nimba County to ensure greater border monitoring, proper registration of the incoming refugees and to hand out relief items."

UNHCR has set up registration centres in 16 villages where the agency is also distributing blankets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, kerosene lamps, soap and plastic sheeting as it records refugee families.

The Liberian government has itself distributed 1.8 metric tons of rice and has repaired water pumps in some villages to improve the supply of clean water, which has been in short supply since the influx began on November 29.

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UNHCR country pages

New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

As of late March, more than 100,000 Ivorian refugees had crossed into eastern Liberia since lingering political tension from a disputed presidential election in neighbouring Côte d' Ivoire erupted into violence in February. Most have gone to Liberia's Nimba County, but in a sign that the fighting has shifted, some 6,000 Ivorians recently fled across the border into Liberia's Grand Gedeh County. Most of the new arrivals have settled in remote villages - some inaccessible by car. The UN refugee agency sent a mission to assess the needs of the refugees in the region.

Photographer Glenna Gordon photographed new arrivals near Zwedru in south-eastern Liberia.

New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

UNHCR has expressed its mounting concern about civilians trapped in the Abobo district of Cote d'Ivoire's commercial centre, Abidjan, following days of fierce fighting between forces loyal to rival presidential candidates. The situation there remains grim. Many of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Abobo have fled, but armed groups are reportedly preventing others from leaving. UNHCR is particularly concerned about vulnerable people, such as the sick and the elderly, who may not be able to leave.

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

Liberia: Return, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Colombia's armed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands who have sought refuge in other countries in the region.

Along the border with Colombia, Panama's Darien region is a thick and inhospitable jungle accessible only by boat. Yet many Colombians have taken refuge here after fleeing the irregular armed groups who control large parts of jungle territory on the other side of the border.

Many of the families sheltering in the Darien are from Colombia's ethnic minorities – indigenous or Afro-Colombians – who have been particularly badly hit by the conflict and forcibly displaced in large numbers. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the numbers of Colombians arriving in the capital, Panama City.

There are an estimated 12,500 Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Panama, but many prefer not to make themselves known to authorities and remain in hiding. This "hidden population" is one of the biggest challenges facing UNHCR not only in Panama but also in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Liberia: Return, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Liberia: A Neighbour's HelpPlay video

Liberia: A Neighbour's Help

Alphonse Gonglegbe fled to Liberia with his family a few months ago. He appreciates the help he's been receiving in this land neighbouring his native Côte d'Ivoire.
Liberia: Hurried FlightPlay video

Liberia: Hurried Flight

Tens of thousands of Ivorians have fled their villages and sought shelter in Liberia. Francis says he ran for his life and now he wants safety and food.
Liberia: Settling InPlay video

Liberia: Settling In

A dozen new shelters are built every day in Liberia's Bahn refugee camp. Eventually there will be 3,000 shelters for some of the many civilians who have fled from neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire.