Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia: a forgotten emergency

Population of Glarlay village has doubled. Pic: Antonio Cabral/CAFOD]

Population of Glarlay village has doubled. Pic: Antonio Cabral/CAFOD]

As the violence in Cote d’Ivoire intensifies, tens of thousands of refugees are pouring into Liberia. CAFOD  staff are on the ground, responding to this forgotten emergency. Since last year’s disputed election, there have been increasingly violent clashes across the West African state, with hundreds of thousands of people forced to leave their homes.

Patrice Doho had known for weeks that the fighting was drawing near his village in Cote d’Ivoire. But when he heard heavy gunfire on 24 February, he and his family didn’t even have time to pack their bags. “The children couldn’t understand what was happening,” says Patrice. “They were in floods of tears. We didn’t have time to collect our possessions, we just fled.”

Patrice and his family decided to head for neighbouring Liberia. “It took us two days to walk to the border," he says. "Then we spent all the money we had on crossing the river.” It wasn’t the first time Patrice had made this journey. He had been forced to flee from Cote d’Ivoire’s civil war in 2002. Back then he was offered shelter in the small Liberian village of Glarlay. Now he has returned with his extended family.

“When we arrived in Glarlay, I asked the village chief for help,” says Patrice. “We are from the same tribe. They welcomed us as brothers and sisters.”

Despite the kindness of their hosts, life is not easy for Patrice’s family. The population of Glarlay has more than doubled since the refugee crisis began. This is already one of the poorest parts of the world, and the new arrivals are placing an enormous strain on the village’s meagre resources.

Patrice is one of 24 refugees crammed into one small house. There is a serious shortage of basic supplies, and food-stocks are running
dangerously low.

“We need mattresses to sleep on,” says Patrice. “And I need tools so I can work. There is little hope of us going home any time soon.”

CAFOD staff are on the ground in Liberia, working with local partner organisations to provide emergency food aid, sleeping mats, blankets and cooking utensils. We are also supplying seeds to help families to grow more food over the coming months, as well as constructing latrines and launching projects that will help to protect refugee children.

“It’s inspiring to see the compassion that Liberian communities are showing towards their neighbours,” says CAFOD’s Antonio Cabral. “But because of what’s been happening in Japan and Libya, this crisis is not in the news. When the rainy season starts, it will be far harder to get aid to remote villages like Glarlay. That’s why we need to act now.”

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