Liberia: Ivorian refugee needs outstrip aid

25 Mar 2011

Monrovia -- With a sharp increase in the number of Ivorian refugees crossing into Liberia during recent weeks following Cote d’Ivoire’s political crisis which began in November last year, United Nations agencies have pointed to the increasing need for emergency shelter.

More than half of the 75,000 refugees who crossed since November into Liberia’s Nimba, Maryland and Grand Gedeh counties in the country’s east and southeast arrived in the country during the two weeks running up to 12 March, 2011.

While the majority of refugees were initially sheltered by relatives or friends, about 620 have been relocated to a camp, set up by the national Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission and UN teams, 50 kilometres from the border in Bahn, Nimba county.

“We require urgent funding to ensure continued assistance to refugees and host populations, and respond to the new influx of refugees,” said Moustapha Soumaré, UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Resident Coordinator and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Liberia.

“Lack of funding will seriously hamper these relief efforts and could lead to situations of instability, in terms of food, health, sanitation, and security,” said Soumaré, referring to a January humanitarian appeal for US$55 million which has since been revised to US$120 million.

Some US$17 million had been committed as of 15 March under the original emergency appeal, according to figures collected by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs which had allocated approximately US$6 million from its central emergency response fund.

The revised appeal, aimed at supporting the needs of an estimated 150,000 refugees and others affected in Liberia for a six month period, covers shelter, camp management, nutrition, health care, water, sanitation and hygiene, and crucial logistics, among other relief items.

Multiple UN agencies have being assisting populations and host communities along the border, with refugee and food agencies airlifting several hundred metric tons of relief, including blankets, kitchen utensils, lightweight emergency tents, and reinforced tarpaulins.

In advance of the situation, UN agencies had been working together with partners under a project, supported by the UN Integrated Mission in Liberia and the United Nations Development Programme, to unify UN resources throughout the country.