Race to avert humanitarian crisis in Ivory Coast says Oxfam

Published: 13th April 2011

Agency calls for funding to match escalating needs in Ivory Coast and Liberia 

Four months of violence, looting and displacement have created a humanitarian crisis which will take months and perhaps years to ease Oxfam said today. 

More than one million people have fled extreme violence and are surviving in the open forest, living in overcrowded conditions in poor villages, or relying on local communities in neighbouring Liberia.

The agency is calling for funding to match escalating needs in Ivory Coast and Liberia. The UN has said the humanitarian crisis in Ivory Coast will need $160 million behind it – only $22 million has been committed by the international community so far. In Liberia the UN has asked for $146.5 million to cope with the refugee crisis but just over a quarter has been pledged. 

Many refugees, according to testimonies gathered by the agency, are too scared to return home in the immediate future and local communities, who have been providing food and shelter to displaced people, have nothing left to give.   

"Oxfam is gearing up for a long-term humanitarian emergency and potential public health disaster," said Oxfam's Regional Humanitarian Coordinator Philippe Conraud in Ivory Coast. "The fall out of the past four months will be felt for a long time to come. Refugees need lifesaving aid immediately and support to help rebuild their lives over the coming months. 

"People have fled their home and sought safety in villages. Small communities have doubled or tripled in size, with 60, 70, 80 people living under one roof. There is simply not enough water, food or space to go round. I met a nurse who left her job in a hospital in Abidjan in fear of her life. She is worried the lack of clean water will be devastating for her children who are already extremely fragile." 

A man who fled Abidjan with 83 members of his extended family to live with his brother in Man Ivory Coast told Conraud, "it is difficult here but at least we are safe". 

In Liberia, where more than 100,000 refugees have crossed the border, a mother of three and 20 of her extended family are sleeping under a poor bamboo shelter with only leaves to protect against the sun after her husband was killed in western Ivory Coast. In another Liberian village 45 people, including a woman who is seven months pregnant, sleep in one mud house without access to basic services. 

"Oxfam is providing clean water and toilets to refugees in Liberia," said Conraud, "but it's not enough. We need more resources to help us support already poor communities who are struggling to cope with the influx of refugees.

Oxfam has launched an appeal to raise $16 million 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 Liberia for the influx of refugees coming over the border and has flown in supplies for 70,000 people. The agency is now expanding its focus into the Ivory Coast in response to the escalating humanitarian crisis in the country.



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Read more

> Testimonies: Refugees from Ivory Coast in Liberia – tell why they fled and describe life in the camps

> Oxfam's response in Liberia and Ivory Coast

The fall out of the past four months will be felt for a long time to come. Refugees need lifesaving aid immediately and support to help rebuild their lives over the coming months
Philippe Conraud
Oxfam's Regional Humanitarian Coordinator in Ivory Coast

Notes to editors

  • Offers of funding for the Ivory Coast and Liberia were announced by both France and the EU yesterday but how much of these commitments will be used to fund the immediate humanitarian appeal is still to be determined. 
  • Oxfam staff are available for in interview in Ivory Coast and on the Ivory Coast-Liberia border. Photos and broadcast-quality footage are available. 
  • 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.

Contact information

From more information contact: 

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