by Oxfam Channel - update from the field
Tags: host community, glock, refugees
This is Caroline Gluck Oxfam Humanitarian Press Officer. I'm currently in Grand Guedeh which is where many thousands of refugees have fled escaping conflict in the Ivory Coast or Cote D'Ivoire. Today I went to a town right on the border it's about 6 kilometers from the border called Bawadei(?) where more than 2000 refugees have took shelter with the host community. The arrivals have actually effectively more than doubled a community and put real strain on people living there. People are mainly subsistence farmers but they've opened up their homes and their hearts to these new arrivals. They've allowed them to stay in their houses and they've given them food and in some case also clothing because many simply fled their villages when the fighting started and walked across to Liberia, a journey that took them 4 even 5 days. So they're quite traumatised. They've got nothing with them, no shelter, no food. But now there are so many people in the community it's putting a huge strain on them. Food stocks are running out... In that village there are three water pumps but only one is effectively working. So Oxfam today, managed to get water supplies into the community and we've connected it to taps so that people can have water for cleaning and for drinking. We're also looking at installing latrines because people are defecating outside at the moment. But one real problem is actually getting help to the border villages where most of the estimated 100,000 plus refugees from Cote D'Ivoire or Ivory Coast have come into Liberia. Most are staying with host communities in border villages. There’s only one established camp, set up by UNHCR and something like 2,500 people are living there at the moment so a very small number of people in areas further away from the border where help can be got more effectively and quickly. And to illustrate a point, we tried to truck water to the village of Bawadei(?) yesterday and it had rained very heavily the night before. As a result the truck overturned and we had to abort the mission because we simply couldn’t get through the road. So this problem is going to increase as the weeks go by because the rainy season is going to start in earnest in April so the clock is ticking and we need to get help to people who really need it urgently now. I met one family today in Bawadei (?) whose story really struck me. It’s a family with six children and the adults and they’ve spent days travelling by foot from their village to get through Ivory Coast. And they told me on the fourth day they had to cross the river with a very fast flowing current with about 30 people and two of them were daughters of this woman’s sister who escaped the fighting but got separated. And unfortunately these two children lost their footing on a tree truck that they had to cross over the river and they lost their lives. They drowned and the current was so strong that nobody could rescue them. And the family is still very traumatised by this. They’re now living with a family in Bawadei (?), but said there are 22 other people sharing the same room, there’s not much room, there’s not much food, they’re very grateful for the help they’ve got, but they’re actually quite concerned about the strain it’s putting on the family that’s helping them.So these are some of the stories that I’ve been hearing from people that have come across. Many have been separated, there are mothers with young children who aren’t with their husbands because they fled the fighting when rebels came to their village… They just simply got up and ran and lost their relatives and their loved ones. I met two children yesterday, the family had fled, but the girl had polio and the brother had been working as an apprentice mechanic. When he came home she was the only one at home and he helped her, and in some cases he had to carry her through the bush, until they could get to safety. They’re very touching stories. At the moment the communities and the people are very patient but they say their main needs now are shelter. They don’t have enough shelter, they’re running out of food, they don’t have good supplies of water and they need clothing as well. They need help and they need it now. More people are coming as refugees into Liberia everyday as fighting intensifies in Ivory Coast. This is Caroline Gluck in Grand Guedeh having just come back from the border town of Bawadei (?) signing off.