Helping refugees in Liberia
Concern Worldwide is responding to the crisis in Liberia, where refugees have been fleeing from their homes in Ivory Coast and crossing the border to Liberia.
I arrived in Liberia two weeks ago to help out with Concern’s emergency response to this crisis. Concern has worked in Liberia since 1996, but we don’t normally work in the border areas. So, we have had to set up a new office and hire some new staff.
We have started to work in Grand Gedeh county, on the border with Ivory Coast, where 55,000 refugees have registered so far. The situation has been constantly changing over the last few weeks and the real number of refugees is still unknown as many people have yet to be registered.
Despite the poverty, and the fact that Liberian villages here face their own struggles with food scarcity at this time of year, families are sharing their supplies with the incoming refugees. This is mainly due to the fact that many Liberians sought and received sanctuary in Ivory Coast during their civil war and are now repaying the “debt.” Concern plans to distribute seeds and tools in these Liberian communities to ensure that they will have sufficient food in the next harvest.
We are in the process of building camps in Grand Gedeh to house refugees. In the meantime, we have set up temporary sites for them to stay in. Concern is currently managing a temporary site in Ziah Town and will take on management of the full camp for 5,000 refugees once it is built. Latrines and wash areas will be installed and water will then be connected to the camp from the town pump.
The Bahi family
I met new arrivals Jean Bahi, his wife Kelly and their four children. They had walked for four days to reach the camp after fleeing violence in the town of Guiglo in Ivory Coast. Jean carried a small plastic bag of rice and Kelly had some clothes in an overnight bag – their only possessions now. While it is hard to imagine the plight of these refugees, we are doing our best to ensure their dignity while making their new surroundings as comfortable as possible.