Local communities have opened their homes and shared their food with 30,000 refugees from Côte d’Ivoire. In a meeting with the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, NRC’s Secretary General commended the people’s support.
President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf received NRC Secretary General Elisabeth Rasmusson in Monrovia this week, to discuss the situation for Ivorian refugees. Photo: NRC/Astrid Sehl
Since the end of November, people along the eastern border of Liberia have hosted thousands of refugees fleeing from violence following the election in Côte d’Ivoire. During her mission to Liberia, Rasmusson was received by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to discuss the situation.
“I am touched by the generosity and solidarity demonstrated by the people of Liberia. Now, time is ripe for the international community to step up its response,” said NRC Secretary General, Elisabeth Rasmusson.
With an influx of 600 refugees each day, the President and NRC shared concerns that the absorption capacity in the host communities in Nimba County has been exhausted. Both the locals and the refugees are short of drinking water, food, sanitation facilities, health services and education. Rasmusson commended the President for keeping the borders open for the refugees, who in return expressed her appreciation for the response provided by the international community.
Preparing refugee camps
The Government has recently identified another 15 villages that can host refugees further from the border and decided to set up refugee camps. NRC has offered its support to the UN and will be responsible for further Site planning, Camp Coordination, Shelter, distribution of food and emergency relief items, and Protection Monitoring.
“The camps will take the burden off the villagers, who are running out of food and water. Also, it will be easier to monitor and respond to protection concerns in a camp setting, than in a tenfold villages across a large bush area with poor road access,” said Rasmusson.
They also agreed that the international response had been too little, too slow and urgently needs to be speeded up. Another concern is the recruitment of young boys and men by armed groups in Côte d’Ivoire.
NRC will continue to increase its humanitarian response, in collaboration with the Liberia Refugee, Resettlement and Repatriation Commission (LRRRC), UN, NGOs and others actors in the field.
NRC Country Director Astrid Sletten (left) is overlooking the registration process. So far, NRC has registered over 24,000 refugees to Nimba County in eastern Liberia. Photo: NRC/Astrid Sehl
Hosting 36 refugees
Villager Bouh Daniel, 62, opened his door when the refugees came knocking. Actually, there was so many of them that he offered them his house, and took his wife and seven children to stay with their extended family. When the NRC Secretary General met him, he had 36 refugees taking turn to sleep on his floor.
“My family and I were forced to flee during the Liberian civil war. We know what it is like to be a refugee,” Daniel explained.
He admits that the situation puts a strain on his family and the community, and that it is yet too early to assess when it may be safe for the refugees to return or find other durable solutions.
Another helping hero is Livingstone Gomah, who has ten refugees staying in his house, in addition to his wife and nine children. He works as a teacher but has not received a salary for months.
“The Ivorians helped us in the past, and now we are helping them. We share what we have, but it is not enough. I hope some will come to the aid of these people,” he said to Rasmusson, who replied that NRC will continue to advocate for urgent response by the international community as well as increasing its own capacity.
“It is the local people in Liberia who are the true humanitarian heroes. Without their solidarity, the refugees would be much worse off”, said Rasmusson, adding that “I cannot imagine that there would have been the same kind of hospitality where I come from.”
INGO of the year
The Norwegian based non-governmental organization has more than 60 years of experience in humanitarian work and is currently operational in 23 countries worldwide. In Liberia, NRC has been providing humanitarian assistance and protection since 2003. It was recently awarded the “International NGO of the Year 2010” by the Liberian newspaper The Inquirer.
“I am thankful for this recognition, considering the many organizations that are making solid efforts in supporting the country in getting back on its feet after the war. NRC, through its many experienced national staff, is committed to continue its humanitarian efforts,” said NRC Country Director Astrid Sletten.