By: Augustine N. Myers – The Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNRCS), with technical and financial support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has scaled up humanitarian assistance to thousands of Ivorian Refugees who fled post election violence and are now seeking refuge in Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties.
Initially, the greater number of Ivorians who fled into Liberia settled in the Luguatuo axis, north of Nimba county and closer to the Danane and Man regions in Western Ivory Coast. Considering the bonds of ethnicity and inter-communal marriage that is shared on both sides of the border, many of the fleeing population preferred to live in the villages of their kinsmen on arrival in Liberia. Of the nearly forty-five villages that hosted Ivoirian refugees, nine were selected for the Red Cross’ intervention.
The nine communities include Kentorgborglay, Seytentuo, Dulay, Gorguatuo, Nyantuo, Zortapa, Zualay, Kpolay and Zorgowee.
As a result of a rapid needs assessment, the Red Cross it was quick to recognize that the water and latrine facilities available in the host communities were outnumbered by the swelling refugee population that are arriving on a daily basis since the start of Ivoirian political deadlock in December 2010.
The Red Cross has undertaken the construction and / or rehabilitation of seventy hand pumps and twenty-three latrines, spread across the nine communities, with the view to ensuring adequate sanitation and safe drinking water for the refugees and host population.
Speaking on behalf of the refugees in Dulay and Kentorgborglay communities, Chief Francis Woyah and Richard Worh lauded the Red Cross for constructing latrines in their communities, which they said is the first of its kind since the establishment of the towns for the past hundred years. “We were using the bushes for latrines but now we are the proud owners of latrines that will serve our communities for years even if the refugees return to their country.” They added.
Alongside these facilities the Red Cross has also kept a closer look at the health and hygiene needs as well as the need to reconnect those separated from their families and loved ones in Ivory Coast. With more than fifty-four Red Cross volunteers deployed in the communities along the border, they have been instrumental in promoting hygiene education, distributing non-food items such as jerry cans, plastic buckets, soap and water guard. In cooperation with the ICRC, these volunteers have facilitated the several family contacts through telephone and written messages, sent on behalf of some refugees to their relatives in Ivory Coast.
The recent takeover of Toulopleu and the apparent move toward the south of Ivory Coast by the Rebel New Forces has led to more refugees crossing through southern border of Nimba in Buutuo and further down south into Grand Gedeh County. In anticipation of the rising refugee population the Liberian Red Cross with support of the IFRC has scaled up its intervention to provide additional water and sanitation facilities another nine communities.
Already, the Liberian Red Cross working hand in hand with the IFRC, and the ICRC have successfully completed the construction of one ‘’kit-5’’ water treatment and distribution plant, which has the capacity provide clean and safe water for 5000 people daily.
Prior to the installation of the kit-5 water plant in Buutuo, the only source of water supply was the Cestos River which separates Liberia from Ivory Coast at that point. Buutuo, now a major reception and transit point for thousands of Ivorian refugees, has an improved source of drinking water that has drastically reduced the threat of diarrhea and other water borne diseases.
The refugees and residents have expressed gratitude to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement for its quick intervention in helping the community cope with the influx of Ivorian refugees by properly addressing the need for clean and safe drinking water.
The Red Cross Movement is currently monitoring the refugee situation in Grand Gedeh, River Gee and Maryland Counties in the south eastern part of Liberia that borders with Ivory Coast.
A team of Red Cross staff recently visited to see firsthand the humanitarian situation in relation to new influx around Toe’s town, Garley’s town and Ziway’s town in Grand Gedeh County.