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UNHCR airlifts emergency aid for Ivorian refugees in Liberia

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Newly arrived refugees from Côte d’Ivoire await registration in Behwalay Village in Liberia.  © UNHCR/Roland Tuley

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today airlifted 95 tonnes of emergency supplies as nearly 15,000 Ivorians find refuge in Liberia.

A UNHCR-chartered Boeing 747 cargo flight landed today at 05:30 local time in Liberia’s capital Monrovia, with blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets, plastic sheets, and solar lamps for refugees fleeing violence in Côte d’Ivoire. The items – from UNHCR’s stockpile in Amman and with a value of over US$300,000 – are being dispatched to refugees near the Ivorian border. More aid is on the way.

Clashes between opposition and pro-government supporters in Côte d’Ivoire’s Central and West-Central regions earlier this month have forced thousands of Ivorians to flee into Liberia.

“Every day this past week, hundreds of Ivorian refugees have continued to cross the border,” said Roseline Okoro, UNHCR’s representative in Liberia. “Most are children, arriving exhausted and malnourished. The needs are mounting, and we are stepping up to meet them.”

Two of every three new refugees are minors, many of them are accompanied by only an older sibling or grandparent. Shelter and other resources have become scarce and recent arrivals are sleeping in schools and churches.

UNHCR has deployed additional teams to Liberia and is working closely with governments in the region and other UN partners.

While most Ivorian refugees have been arriving to Liberia, some have also fled to Ghana (665), Guinea (367), and Togo (25).

UNHCR thanks countries in the region for welcoming refugees despite COVID-19 restrictions.

Thousands of Ivorians have also been displaced inside the country, mostly near the border with Liberia, in Côte d’Ivoire’s west. Ivorian authorities are registering them. UNHCR and its partners are providing food and essential aid as part of the UN response.

Efforts are underway to ease tensions and strengthen social cohesion in Côte d’Ivoire. But memories remain from a decade ago, when post-election violence claimed the lives of over 3,000 Ivorians, forced more than 300,000 to flee across borders, and displaced more than one million inside the country.

“Many of the arriving refugees were displaced after the 2010 election violence,” said Okoro. “Now, they have been forced to flee again, fearing that recent violence may escalate.”

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