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Building a community for refugees

Although the situation in Ivory Coast has improved in recent weeks, it is difficult to predict the outcome for refugees in Liberia. Since my last blog post, I have returned to the camp in Ziah town to find that in three short weeks a lot of progress has been made.

Last week I returned to the camp in Ziah town to find that it has been completely transformed from an empty space to a thriving community. It now has 300 tents and is home to over 2,000 people with more people arriving every day.

Making progress

The progress made on the construction of the camp is impressive. Everything required for a functioning living space is being put in place. Concern is constructing a pipeline from the village well to run water to the camp and is also providing taps so people can access water easily. Latrines and bathing areas have already been built.  

Community spirit

The real difference though is the sense of community and normality that now exists. Most families have built a wooden veranda structure at the front of their tents where they can sit during the day.  This allows people to congregate and chat in shaded areas, just like they would do in their villages.

The Bahi family

In my last blog post, I wrote about a new family that had just moved into the camp. This time, I met them again and Kelly and Jean proudly showed me their tent and the structure they have built.

Trade in the camp

I also met Josephine Biam, who has set up a small shop in the camp. She used her savings to buy rice in the nearest town. She is now selling it in the camp for three dollars a cup and doing a steady trade.  

Food rations

While the World Food Programme should be providing food rations to refugees in the camp, there has been a problem with supplies and food distributions have been sporadic. However, they have now received rice supplies in Liberia and Concern has successfully lobbied to make Ziah camp a priority for their first distribution. 

Establishing a routine

Around the camp, life goes on. Children run around playing with toys they’ve fashioned from pieces of wood. They seem to have adapted.  However, they have been out of school for months now and are missing out on their education. Concern is pushing the UN to get a school set up in the camp. It is important to try and re-establish some sense of routine and normality for children who have lost their homes and in some cases their parents.