Despite Laurent Gbagbo’s latest agreement to negotiate a peaceful end to Ivory Coast’s ongoing political crisis, it appears that violence within the country is persisting and refugees continue to leave Ivory Coast in their thousands.
Unless the violence ends, the peace, economic and human security of neighbouring countries could also be put at risk as they struggle to help those fleeing Ivory Coast.
ActionAid Liberia’s Country Director Korto Williams said: “When one country in West Africa slips into conflict, it can easily destabilise its neighbours.
“Politicians must learn the lessons of the recent civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia that affected hundreds of thousands of people. Both countries were virtually destroyed and they are only now beginning to recover.”
At least 22,000 refugees have already entered Liberia where ActionAid works. Of these, 15,000 – nearly 70 per cent – are women and children.
ActionAid is very concerned about the plight of the refugees and the gender disparity. Women and children have borne the brunt of the humanitarian crises and power struggles that have affected the West African sub-region over the last 15 years.“The exodus of people from Ivory Coast will inevitably increase if violence escalates,” said Korto Williams.
“Not only will this place growing economic pressure on already fragile neighbouring countries, but the health and security of refugees, particularly of women and children, is also of huge concern.”
Life is never easy for refugees. Children stop going to school. Getting food and clean water becomes very difficult. Medical problems increase. Displaced women and children are also extremely vulnerable to exploitation, including sexual exploitation, and need specialist support.
Whilst ActionAid has no presence in Ivory Coast, we are responding to the refugee crisis in Liberia immediately and may consider cross-border initiatives within Ivory Coast should the situation deteriorate drastically.
ActionAid Liberia has already sent an assessment team to Grand Gedeh in the south east of Liberia where ActionAid runs child sponsorship programmes and to Nimba County, to the north. Both areas border Ivory Coast and are the destination points for the majority of refugees.
photo : ©ActionAid