Oxfam launches appeal for crisis in Ivory Coast

Oxfam has launched a public appeal for its work helping people caught up in political violence in the West African country of Ivory Coast. The agency is asking for funds to support is work providing clean water to refugees who have sought safety and assistance in neighbouring Liberia and will be sending aid experts into northern Ivory Coast over the coming days.

April 6, 2011

“This crisis has been kept in the shadows for far too long. Only now is the world recognizing the immense scale of the human suffering with more than one million people forced to flee their homes,” said Tariq Riebl, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Manager in Liberia.

Violent attacks and looting has forced thousands to flee Ivory Coast for Liberia in the past 24 hours, Oxfam said on April 7.

As battles continue to surround the presidential residence in Abidjan, serious violence against civilians is still reported in the west of the country.

Oxfam staff in the Liberian coastal town of Harper say that more than 4,000 people have arrived there in the past 24 hours alone, fleeing violence centred around Tabou just across the border.

“We are hearing that as many as 7,000 more people are on their way here,” said Shemeles Mekonnen, Oxfam’s Public Health Engineer in Maryland, south-east Liberia. “People have been caught up in violent attacks and are running from their homes with nothing.

“Refugees are speaking of fighting, looting and burning of homes.  This crisis is far from over and the needs are immense," he said. "People are fleeing for their lives and are in dire need of clean water, food and shelter. Many are saying they are too scared to return home anytime soon. Refugees will need our help for months to come.”

Mekonnen spoke to 56-year-old Catrien Gato, who fled her village Hepo in Ivory Coast, amid conflict. She travelled with her 12 children and grandchildren.

“Things in the village were really scary,” she told Oxfam. “There was a lot of fighting, looting and burning. It seemed everything was being destroyed. The police were nowhere and there was no law and order. I don’t even want to think about going back, things are very dangerous there.”

So far more than 100,000 Ivorian refugees have been registered in Liberia, with most living in extremely poor conditions in transit centres or local communities.

Oxfam has launched a public appeal for donations to support Oxfam's work on the Ivory Coast crisis, which includes installing water tanks, latrines and showers in Maryland for the influx of refugees coming over the border, as well as providing clean water and sanitation services to thousands of people further north along the Ivory Coast-Liberia border.

Oxfam has also flown in supplies for 70,000 people and is sending a team of aid experts in to Ivory Coast in the coming days to evaluate how to respond to the crisis. Any aid operation will be extremely difficult due to ongoing conflict.

Donate now to support our emergency relief work in Ivory Coast.

From more information contact:
Caroline Gluck, Monrovia: cgluck@oxfam.org.uk +44 7867 976041 or +231 76 690 164
Olivier Germain, Monrovia: ogermain@oxfam.org.uk +23177916323
Charles Bambara, Dakar: cbambara@oxfam.org.uk + 221 77 639 41 78
Karen Palmer, Ottawa: karenp@oxfam.ca 613-240-3047

 Notes to editors:
1. Oxfam staff are available for interview on the Ivory Coast-Liberia border.
2. Photos and broadcast-quality footage are available.
3. The UN has asked for $US146.5 million to cope with the refugee crisis but only a quarter has been made available so far.