Liberian border towns under strain as tens of thousands flee violence in Côte d'Ivoire
24-03-2011 News Footage Ref. V-F-CR-F-01085-A
As fighting escalates in Côte d'Ivoire, the Red Cross is scaling up efforts to help tens of thousands of people fleeing to neighbouring Liberia. The ICRC along with the Liberian Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is providing clean water to more than ten thousand refugees and their host communities in the border town of Buutuo, whose population has tripled since the upsurge in fighting in western Côte d'Ivoire at the end of February.
- Footage available from the ICRC Video Newsroom (www.icrcvideonewsroom.org), with news release and fact sheet. Easy to preview and to download.
- Footage available on EBU Thursday 24 March 2011
For more information, please contact Janet Powell, ICRC, Geneva, tel: + 41 79 251 93 14 or e-mail
See also the news release: Liberia / Côte d'Ivoire: Red Cross steps up work to restore family links
As fighting escalates in Côte d'Ivoire, the Red Cross is scaling up efforts to help tens of thousands of people fleeing to neighbouring Liberia.
The ICRC along with the Liberian Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is providing clean water to more than ten thousand refugees and their host communities in the border town of Buutuo, whose population has tripled since the upsurge in fighting in western Côte d'Ivoire at the end of February.
Many families were separated during the second mass exodus. In the chaos, children fled in different directions or got lost as their parents made for Liberia. In one week the ICRC and Liberian Red Cross volunteers helped 17 children separated from their parents. The Red Cross delivers messages from the refugees to their loved ones back home and helps those living in host families and camps make free phone calls to the Côte d'Ivoire. So far the ICRC has facilitated 350 calls by satellite or mobile phone.
According to the UN more than 50,000 refugees have crossed the border in the past few weeks, adding to the 40,000 who made their way to Liberia since November's disputed elections.
Their arrival is putting an increased strain on host communities in a country still recovering from the devastating effects of its own 14 year civil war.
Trucks crammed with men, women and children are making their way from the border town of Buutuo in north east Liberia to camps deeper inside the country. The trucks stop at transit camps, where the refugees snatch a few days rest before going onto the main camp in Bahn. No sooner has one truck unloaded then the next fills up with its weary human cargo.
16 year old Basile and his 20 year old cousin Eric arrived in Karnplay transit camp by truck four days ago after they crossed the border from Côte d'Ivoire. They had been on their way to school in Zouan-Hounien when they heard gun shots. The cousins took flight, sleeping in the bush for two weeks where they foraged for bananas and fruit. Basile has not seen his mother and three brothers and two sisters since.
Eric has managed to ring his mother on a mobile phone provided by the ICRC and Basile has asked his aunt to try and find his mother who has gone missing. The ICRC provides free phone calls for family members in Liberia who want to re-establish contact with their loved ones in Côte d'Ivoire.
ICRC will also carry on looking for Basile's mother and tracing officer Albert Sheldon says as soon as they have more news about her, Basile will be able to make another call.
ICRC is also helping refugees in host families reconnect with their loved ones. Viviane fled Ivory Coast shortly after the disputed November elections. She is delighted to be back in touch with her father who stayed in Côte d'Ivoire and passes the phone to her elderly mother. Since December Viviane and 20 other family members have been staying with Curtis Brown and his family in the border town of Buutuo. Curtis was a refugee in Côte d'Ivoire during Liberia's 14 year civil war and says it is now his turn to help the Ivorian refugees.
The arrival of 20,000 Ivorian refugees in Buutuo, tripling its population, has put a strain on the impoverished town. The ICRC is providing clean water for the new arrivals and the host community.
Even before the influx most people didn’t have clean water and had to fetch water from the Cesto river for washing, drinking and cooking.
ICRC water delegate Isidore Kieh explains only three of the twelve wells were working but after twenty litres of water they kept running dry. The ICRC with its partners the Liberian Red Cross and International Red Cross and Red Crescent Federation is filtering and purifying water trucked from the river, producing up to 75,000 litres of clean drinking water for more than 10,000 people a day.
At the Cesto river crossing point just 50 metres of water separates the two countries and it is feared that as the fighting escalates in Côte d'Ivoire more people will scramble across the river to safety.
00:00 Trucks arriving at Karnplay transit camp NE Liberia
00:10 Trucks unloading refugees at transit camp
00:20 General shots of life in transit camp
01:22 ICRC tracing officer, Eric and Basile walking to tent
01:31 Inside Eric and Basile's tent
01:48 INTV Basile in French
"I was on my way to school with my friend. We were walking and the shooting began. We fled.
We had left our guardian, my friend's mother at home. We could not go back so we fled to the
forest where we slept".
02:14 Eric and Basile cleaning tent
02:32 INTV Basile in French
"People from the Red Cross are coming to help us the whole time, to call back home. They
took our photos to send back there so that they can help find my mother. I don’t know where
my mother is, nor my young sisters and brothers who are with her"
02:55 ICRC tracing officer with phone and Basile
03:20 Basile speaking on phone to Eric's mother
"It is ringing. it is ringing. Hello. Where is mother? We are looking for her. You haven't seen
her"? Oh ok"
04:00 Eric on the phone to his mother
04:23 INTV ICRC tracing officer Albert Sheldon in English.
"She said she hasn’t got any new's about Basile's mother – the unaccompanied child – so she
will try to search around, look around and see whether she can get news about her. And I am
sure at the transit centre, where there's news, we will make it possible for him to do another
04:48 Refugees staying with host communities in the border town of Buutuo
05:03 ICRC tracing officer contacting Viviane's father
05:13 Viviane in Macouba on the phone
05:36 Viviane passes the phone to her mother
05:50 INTV Viviane in Macouba
"I am so pleased and happy to hear my father's voice because I haven’t heard from him
for such a long time. It is thanks to the Red Cross that I got to talk to him and hear his news"
06:01 Curtis Brown, host of the family
06:09 Viviane's mother with family
06:14 daily life in host family
06:42 INTV Curtis Brown in English
"Well we went there during own crisis in Liberia. They assisted us. So when they came, the
same people assisted us have come, so we need to give them the same help".
06:53 washing pots in Cesto river
07:11 INTV Isidore Kieh, ICRC delegate in English
"The water situation in this village was very deplorable. They have about 12 wells that were dug
in the village and up to the influx of the refugees, only 8 of these wells were running. Out of the
8, 5 of them went dry. 3 are running but they don’t have sufficient water so after every 20 litres
of waer, they go dry. So the people had to wait to fetch water."
07:43 partners purifying water
08:02 IINTV Isidore Kieh, ICRC delegate in English
"This is what it looks like. This is the difference. This is the raw water from the river and this is
the treated water that goes to the community"
08:12 women queuing at water point
08:18 Isidore at water point
09:08 Cesto river crossing
For further information, please contact:
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: + 41 22 730 20 11 or + 41 79 536 92 50
Noora Kero, ICRC Monrovia, tel + 231 77 55 65 33