Ivorian refugees in Liberia relocate away from border regions
On 18 February 2011, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) transported 93 Ivorian refugees from Liberia’s border villages to a refugee camp in Bahn, Nimba County. The mayor of Bahn welcomed the five-truck convoy, marking the first wave of a project that plans to relocate 15,000 refugees over the coming weeks, according to UNHCR. As of 18 February, a total of 38,257 refugees have been registered in Nimba County.
According to Liberia United Nations Country Team Situation Report No. 4, most refugees want to be relocated to Bahn camp instead of other small villages. In border villages, an estimated 39,000 people have benefited from improved water sources, but sanitation and health resources are problematic. UNICEF has thus far supplied water purification tablets, jerry-cans, and soap for 15,000 people.
Humanitarian assistance targeting Bahn camp and other relocation villages is underway, including UNICEF agreements with local organizations to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene for 40,000 people. UNICEF will also support Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) development projects in Bahn camp through the supply of drilling, pumping, and water treatment equipment. WHO and UNFPA are contributing to the distribution of drugs and medical supplies, and MSF Belgium and Save the Children have identified sites for a new Bahn camp health post and school in partnership with UNHCR.
However, challenges continue to persist with providing resources for newly arriving refugees. Health facilities and WASH supplies at Bahn camp are strained, and as HRC for Liberia Moustapha Soumare stressed when the UN and IOM launched the flash appeal for Liberia in January, “The increasing presence of refugees is already putting a strain on the Liberian communities hosting them.”
There are also challenges to overcome with relocation, as only two of ten bridges crucial to the response effort have been rehabilitated, and the rainy season is expected to further impede access to remote villages in April.