Over 8,000 Ivorian refugees have now fled into neighbouring countries amid political tensions in Côte d’Ivoire, up from 3,200 in just one week. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is ramping up its support fearing that continuing violence will force more people out of the country.
As of 9 November, more than 7,500 Ivorians had fled to Liberia. Over 60 per cent of arrivals are children, some of whom arrived unaccompanied or separated from their parents. Older people and pregnant women have also fled, most carrying just a few belongings and little to no food or money.
Some Ivorian refugees report they were initially prevented from leaving the country and forced to find alternative routes to enter neighbouring Liberia. The majority have told our teams in Liberia that they wish to remain close to the border and return as soon as the situation stablises.
We are planning to airlift essential relief items for up to 10,000 refugees in Liberia from our stockpiles in Dubai. In support of the response by Liberian authorities, UNHCR’s teams on the ground are racing to distribute humanitarian aid, food, and cash assistance. We have deployed technical teams to address water, sanitation, and shelter needs.
Meanwhile, more than 500 Ivorians have also arrived in Ghana, Guinea, and Togo where they are receiving immediate assistance. UNHCR has increased border monitoring to ensure that the new arrivals are quickly identified and receive the assistance they need.
UNHCR is grateful to the Governments of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, and Togo for granting Ivorian refugees access to asylum on their territory, despite the border restrictions due to COVID-19.
We continue to work closely with governments and other UN partners in the region and are prepared to activate our joint contingency plans should refugee movements accelerate.
Current tensions in Cote d’Ivoire are triggering fears among Ivorians reminiscent of the country’s 2011 presidential election, which claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people, forced over 300,000 to flee across the region, and displaced more than one million inside the country.
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