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Liberia: Ivorian refugees find many ways to survive

14-07-2011 Feature

Grand Gedeh County in eastern Liberia currently hosts some 74,000 Ivorian refugees, half of the total number of refugees estimated to still be in the country.

In Beweydee village, new houses are being built right next to old ones and you see people everywhere. Men are bringing construction materials from the forest, women prepare food, children play or go to schools run by international organizations. It looks like the Ivorian refugees will not be leaving any time soon.

"We will stay here as long as we have to. Right now I wouldn't feel safe in Côte d'Ivoire," says 58-year-old Alphonse, who fled the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire to Liberia in March with 12 other people.

The town of Janzon is crowded too. Especially when the ICRC and the Liberia National Red Cross Society arrive with five trucks carrying seed rice, tools and food. This time, five hundred Liberian farmers will benefit from the long-awaited aid.

A small piece of land for an Ivorian cocoa farmer

"This last month has been very difficult. We hardly had any food, because we'd even eaten the seed rice. I'm so happy about what we received today," says Edward Quarowea. He is growing rice and bananas in New Pohan, another village in Grand Gedeh County.

Edward will now plant the 30 kg of seed rice he has received. He also received a metal file, hoes and cutlasses and enough food for two weeks, so that he and his family would not have to eat the seed rice: 36 kg of rice, 6 litres of oil and 400g of salt.

"I will share all this with my wife and my child and with the 29 Ivorians I'm hosting," he announces.

Dominique Doh is one of the Ivorians staying with Edward. The cocoa and coffee farmer from western Côte d'Ivoire finds life tough these days. He is grateful to his Liberian hosts, but things are not like at home. There is no regular work, no mobile phone network and no electricity. But he is pleased that the water and sanitation facilities have improved. The ICRC and the Liberia Red Cross have recently built or repaired several wells and latrines in the area and installed a water purification and distribution unit.

"I am also grateful to Edward for providing me with a small piece of land where I can grow some maize and manioc. He gave us a house to stay in and allowed us to build a new one on his land," says Dominique. He has seven children, of whom two are still in Côte d'Ivoire.

Water distribution unit provides work for five refugees

Where it is not possible to cultivate land, some refugees have found work, running motorbike taxis or taking care of water points. Marcel and Gervais Guei, together with Armand and Charles Toah, are all working in New Pohan at the Red Cross water distribution unit, which provides 15,000 litres of clean water a day.

"This unit serves both Liberians and refugees. Water from the river is purified and people can fill their buckets from the taps," explains Gervais, who is a technician by profession.

Doris Nyande comes to fill her bucket. She is from Liberia, and is happy to see that her brothers and sisters from Côte d'Ivoire have found work. She knows how it is to be a refugee: she spent seven years in neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire during the Liberian civil war.

"We all have our own ways to survive. I just want to make sure I can feed my children and grandchildren – and the 21 refugees I'm currently hosting. If all else fails, I can set traps and get bush meat," says the courageous widow.


Photos

Grand Gedeh County, Liberia. Liberian farmer Edward Quarowea received rice, tools and food from the ICRC. 

Grand Gedeh County, Liberia. Liberian farmer Edward Quarowea received rice, tools and food from the ICRC.
© ICRC / N. Kero / LR-E-00507

The ICRC and the Liberia Red Cross distribute rice, oil and salt in Janzon, Grand Gedeh, to help people survive Liberia's  

The ICRC and the Liberia Red Cross distribute rice, oil and salt in Janzon, Grand Gedeh, to help people survive Liberia's "hunger season".
© ICRC / N. Kero / LR-E-00506

Grand Gedeh County, Liberia. Dominique Doh is building a house for his family and cousins with whom he fled to Liberia. 

Grand Gedeh County, Liberia. Dominique Doh is building a house for his family and cousins with whom he fled to Liberia.
© ICRC / N. Kero / LR-E-00508

Grand Gedeh County, Liberia. Motorbike taxis driven by Ivorian refugees help carry goods from the ICRC distribution site to the villages. 

Grand Gedeh County, Liberia. Motorbike taxis driven by Ivorian refugees help carry goods from the ICRC distribution site to the villages.
© ICRC / N. Kero / LR-E-00505