20 April 2012
The Red Cross has started a livelihoods programme in Liberia to help more than 9,000 people still struggling after conflict erupted in the Ivory Coast following the disputed presidential election in November 2010.
More than 162,000 people fled their homes in panic, carrying nothing with them, and sought refuge in neighbouring Liberia.
Although the electoral crisis was resolved last year and some refugees returned home, there is still severe insecurity in the Ivory Coast and more than 135,000 refugees remain with host families and in camps in eastern Liberia.
Providing cash to help people recover
Paula Baizan, British Red Cross recovery programme manager, said: “When the crisis first erupted the Liberia Red Cross responded immediately and we’ve been supporting them from the outset.
“We've contributed around £700,000 from the early stages of the crisis in Liberia to cover essential supplies and emergency personnel and now we’re supporting a new cash programme along the border with the Ivory Coast to help people in their longer-term recovery. The money and expertise we’re providing is helping both refugees and the communities hosting them who are all struggling to make ends meet.
“We are also working with the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Ivory Coast, again supporting them in a cash grants programme, which is taking place in urban areas in the west of the country. We are working with women affected by the war, for example those who lost their husbands, helping them restart small trading activities that they had been doing before the conflict.”
Children suffering psychological trauma
An assessment mission in July 2011, financed by the British Red Cross, found most refugees were suffering from: loss of income and productive assets; lack of adequate shelter; critical shortages of sanitation facilities and safe water supply; and psychological trauma, especially among children.
Although refugees and host families were receiving food aid, many were still struggling with an increase in food and fuel prices following the influx of refugees, and longer term solutions are needed.
Following the assessment, the Liberia Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, is improving living conditions for 22,000 refugees as well as helping 45,000 people from host communities get back on their feet.
The Red Cross programme, which began in January with the distribution of seeds and tools, is addressing psychosocial, livelihoods, food security, health, water and sanitation needs.
Paula said: “We’ve been there from the beginning and will be there for the whole cycle. This means we’re also looking at the sustainability of the operation and how to build the capacity of the Liberia Red Cross to respond effectively to future crises.”
Read more about how we're helping survivors of the Ivory Coast crisis