Ivory Coast residents flee. Photo: REUTERS/Luc Gnago, courtesy Trust.org - Alert

Thousands pour over Ivory Coast border with more on their way

“People have been caught up in violent attacks and are running from their homes with nothing.”
Shemeles Mekonnen
Oxfam’s Public Health Engineer in Maryland, south-east Liberia
Published: 7 April 2011

Refugees flee violence and looting in countryside says Oxfam

Violent attacks and looting have forced thousands to flee Ivory Coast for Liberia over the past 24 hours, Oxfam said today. As battles continue to surround the presidential residence in Abidjan, serious violence against civilians is still reported in the west of the country.

Oxfam staff in the coastal town of Harper in Liberia say that more than 4,000 people have arrived there in the past 24 hours alone, fleeing violence centred around Tabou just across the border.

“We are hearing that as many as 7,000 more people are on their way here,” said Shemeles Mekonnen, Oxfam’s Public Health Engineer in Maryland, south-east Liberia. “People have been caught up in violent attacks and are running from their homes with nothing.

“Refugees are speaking of fighting, looting and burning of homes.  This crisis is far from over and the needs are immense.

“People are fleeing for their lives and are in dire need of clean water, food and shelter. Many are saying they are too scared to return home anytime soon. Refugees will need our help for months to come.”

Mekonnen spoke to 56-year-old Catrien Gato, who fled her village Hepo in Ivory Coast, amid conflict. She travelled with her 12 children and grandchildren.

“Things in the village were really scary,” she told Oxfam. “There was a lot of fighting, looting and burning. It seemed everything was being destroyed. The police were nowhere and there was no law and order. I don’t even want to think about going back, things are very dangerous there.”

So far more than 100,000 Ivorian refugees have been registered in Liberia, most are living in extremely poor conditions in transit centres or local communities.

Oxfam has launched a $16 million appeal for the Ivory Coast crisis which has forced more than one million people from their homes. The agency is installing water tanks, latrines and showers in Maryland for the influx of refugees coming over the border in addition to providing clean water and sanitation services to thousands of people further north along the Ivory Coast-Liberia border.

Oxfam has flown in supplies for 70,000 people and is sending a team of aid experts in to Ivory Coast in the coming days to evaluate how to respond to the crisis, but the agency warns that any aid operation will be extremely difficult due to ongoing conflict.

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Notes to Editors

  1. *SMS texts charged at your standard network rates. We will receive around 85% of your donation depending on your network supplier.
  2. Oxfam staff are available for interview on the Ivory Coast-Liberia border.
  3. Photos and broadcast-quality footage are available.
  4. The UN has asked for $146.5 million to cope with the refugee crisis but only a quarter has been made available so far.
  5. Oxfam is successfully delivering targeted aid to help eliminate global poverty. Last year, we helped more than 17 million people in 62 countries. Around the world, millions more people are being pushed into extreme poverty as a result of the economic crisis.

Read more

> Testimonies from refugees who've fled from Ivory Coast into Liberia

> Oxfam's humanitarian response to the Ivory Coast/Liberia crisis

Contact Information

From more information contact:
Caroline Gluck, Monrovia: cgluck@oxfam.org.uk +44 7867 976041 or +231 76 690 164
Olivier Germain, Monrovia: ogermain@oxfam.org.uk +23177916323
Charles Bambara, Dakar: cbambara@oxfam.org.uk + 221 77 639 41 78
Anna Ridout, Oxford: aridout@oxfam.org.uk +44 (0)7766 443506

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