A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
The clock is ticking to get help to neglected refugees fleeing Ivory Coast, Oxfam warned today.
More than 100,000 people have already crossed the border from Ivory Coast to Liberia and are living in dire conditions in border villages. Unless more is done to get people to safe and serviced areas further inland, they risk being cut off as the rainy season approaches.
“People have fled violence and are now living with families in Liberia in remote jungle areas along the border,” said Oxfam spokesperson Caroline Gluck in Liberia. “When the rains come, we will not be able to reach them with aid because the whole area will become inaccessible. The clock is ticking to get people to safe and reachable areas.”
As the situation in Ivory Coast changes daily, more and more people are crossing the borders of neighboring countries in search of help. Oxfam warns that the potential influx of refugees over the weekend, could make the humanitarian situation in Liberia much worse.
The rainy season, which is starting now, will make roads to remote villages along the border impassable.
“People are walking four or five days before crossing a river to reach safety,” said Gluck. “Fathers are carrying their young children on their backs through deep forest and surviving on raw vegetables.
“Some are sleeping 35 people to a room, forced to spend nights sitting up when it rains. There is a severe lack of food, shelter and medical care.
“Most people have fled their homes after armed men stormed their village. Communities in Liberia are generously supporting thousands of people but they don’t have the supplies to provide help any longer. Much more needs to be done to help people who have fled violence and are now stranded with very little.”
Oxfam is providing clean water to refugees in Liberia and will help families hosting refugees to restock diminished food supplies.
Notes to editors
- UNHCR has registered 73.000 refugees in Liberia between 24 February and March 2011 and 37,000 before then. This is in addition to some one million people displaced in Abidjan. On 28 March, Unicef announced that more than 100,000 refugees from Ivory Coast have crossed into Liberia.
- The UN has asked for 146.5 million US dollars to cope with the refugee crisis but only a quarter has been made available so far.
- Oxfam is successfully delivering targeted aid to help eliminate global poverty. Last year, we helped more than 17m people in 62 countries. Around the world, millions more people are being pushed into extreme poverty as a result of the economic crisis.
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