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Liberia/Côte d'Ivoire: Red Cross steps up work to restore family links

24-03-2011 News Release 11/69

Monrovia / Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Liberia National Red Cross Society have boosted their activities to register and assist unaccompanied and separated children arriving in Liberia after fleeing Côte d'Ivoire.

The second wave of refugees that has resulted from the upsurge in fighting in western Côte d'Ivoire since 24 February has been more urgent and less well organized than previous arrivals. More families have become separated in the process.

"The number of refugees in Liberia is difficult to verify", said Karin Hofmann, head of the ICRC delegation in Monrovia. "The refugee population is very mobile and mostly prefers to stay with host families close to the border. In these areas access to humanitarian aid is difficult and we're concerned that many of these refugees may not receive enough assistance." The United Nations estimates that there are now over 90,000 refugees in Liberia.

Since the influx began, the ICRC has registered 54 children who had been separated from their parents. Many more have been referred to either the ICRC or the Liberian National Society. The Red Cross has also provided some 600 free phone calls for Ivorian refugees in order to restore family links and forwarded over 350 messages to loved ones. As in Nimba County, the number of refugees has started to rise in Grand Gedeh and Maryland counties further south. The Red Cross is adapting its response accordingly.

The growing number of refugees puts a heavy burden on Liberian host communities. Even before their arrival, there was a shortage of safe drinking water, adequate sanitation facilities and access to medical care in some of the remote border villages. "The host communities have received the Ivorian refugees and generously shared their limited resources," says Hofmann. "They should not be forgotten when it comes to humanitarian aid."

To address needs in terms of water and sanitation in Nimba County, the ICRC, the Liberian Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have built 86 latrines and four bath-houses, while repairing or constructing 23 wells. In addition, a water-purification and -distribution unit was recently installed in the border town of Buutuo, whose population has tripled with the refugee influx. The unit is providing clean drinking water daily to more than 10,000 refugees and resident Liberians.

For further information, please contact:
Noora Kero, ICRC Monrovia, tel. +231 77 55 65 33
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 20 11 or +41 79 536 92 50


Photos

 

Refugee transit camp in Karnplay, Nimba County, Liberia. An unaccompanied child tries to find the whereabouts of his mother in Côte d'Ivoire with the help of an ICRC satellite phone.
© ICRC