Updated March 2013
An outbreak of violence following a disputed election in the Ivory Coast in 2011 caused one million people to flee their homes, with many crossing over into neighbouring Liberia.
In the chaos, many people lost contact with their families and when the fighting stopped, the crisis was far from over. They had no idea whether their husbands, wives, children and parents had managed to escape as well.
Many people needed humanitarian assistance and the Red Cross helped those who remained in the Ivory Coast, as well as refugees in Liberia.
Support in the Ivory Coast
In the aftermath of the crisis the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) responded to serious and immediate humanitarian needs by:
- building latrines
- distributing food and other supplies
- providing healthcare services to over 43,000 people
- improving access to drinking water for 45,000 people
- distributing food and emergency supplies to 187,000 people over the course of 2011.
Many women in the Ivory Coast who lost contact with their husbands became the main breadwinners and struggled to make ends meet and feed their children.
The British Red Cross supported an ICRC programme to help women who had lost or been separated from their husbands. This work included giving small cash grants to help women start their own businesses and fend for themselves.
John English, British Red Cross recovery programme manager, said: “Cash is not magic – it doesn’t solve everything at once, but it does allow people affected by crises to keep their dignity by making their own choices in a way conventional aid doesn’t.
"Humanitarian agencies can’t provide everything needed in a crisis but cash is flexible. A modest amount could buy seeds and tools, which might not have an immediate effect, but six months down the line someone is going to have a crop, which can feed them and their family, and can even bring an income.”
Helping refugees and host families in Liberia
During the crisis, over 180,000 people crossed the border to Liberia and many more to other neighbouring countries, where food, water, shelter and latrines were in short supply. In Liberia, the Red Cross helped refugees and host families in the country by:
- building wells, latrines and bathhouses, benefitting 85,000 people
- giving seed, tools and food to 3,000 Liberian farmers
- visiting people who have been detained in connection with the violence in the Ivory Coast
- registering nearly 600 unaccompanied Ivorian children
- training hundreds of volunteers in disease control methods and distributing health and hygiene kits.
As well as raising £102,000 through an appeal, the British Red Cross donated almost £500,000 from its Disaster Fund to help vulnerable people affected by the conflict.