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Liberian communities at breaking point

12/04/2011

Refugees fleeing fighting in Cote d’Ivoire face further risks on arrival to neighbouring Liberia.

Liberian communities are being stretched to breaking point by a massive influx of people seeking refuge from western Cote d’Ivoire, amid fears of an escalation of retribution attacks.

Refugees fleeing fighting in Cote d'IvoirePlan teams have visited one village in Grand Gedeh, Liberia which has seen its population swell from 1,800 to 10,400 people. Overall the refugee population is now one-fifth of Grand Gedeh’s. Two-thirds of those crossing are women and children, many fleeing violence and attacks on their homes and communities.

Children who have been separated from their families during the crossing to Liberia are particularly vulnerable, warn Plan experts. 

“The situation for children is very worrying. Some have had to walk through dense jungle for up to 4 days to reach Liberia and have witnessed violence and killings. These children and families are traumatized and need support to overcome the atrocities they have seen. The communities in Liberia also need help to cope with this”, said Mohamed Bah, Plan’s Country Director in Liberia.

Plan’s teams on the ground are scaling up their response to the emergency and in the coming months will provide education and protection services for up to 25,000 children and their families.

“It will take people a long time to feel safe to return to their homes in Cote d’Ivoire and we are expecting more refugees to arrive in Grand Gedeh and neighboring counties before the situation calms. Many people, however, may not have homes to go to as with families our teams met whose villages had been completely burnt to the ground”, said Berenger Berehoudougou, Plan’s Regional Disaster expert, who visited Nimba and Grand Gedeh counties recently.

Although the crisis is far from over, there is a need to return as swiftly as possible to normal life in the coming months for the refugees and Liberian communities. Plan’s emergency support programmes will run for at least the next 8 months and help over 30,000 people.

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