IRC extends emergency health care to Ivorian refugees in Liberia
International Rescue Committee health teams and local and government partners in Nimba County, Liberia, are providing medical services to thousands of newly arrived Ivorian refugees fleeing post-election violence in Ivory Coast.
Trekking on foot, with few if any belongings, an estimated 11,000 Ivorian refugees have crossed into neighboring Liberia in recent weeks and settled in small border villages with little capacity to absorb them. About two-thirds of the refugees are women and children.
IRC medical staff members are helping Liberian government health workers and a network of community health volunteers to address growing health concerns and prevent potential outbreaks of diseases, such as measles and cholera.
Four IRC-supported clinics have stepped up efforts to treat refugee patients for illnesses, including malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections. The IRC also delivered a two-month supply of medicines to the clinics in anticipation that the refugee population will grow.
"The number of refugees is increasing every day and so are their needs," says Allan Freedman, who oversees IRC humanitarian aid programs in Liberia. “The situation is very troubling, particularly given the region’s history of instability and mass displacement.”
For nearly a month, Ivory Coast has been gripped by violence between armed supporters of incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and his political rival, Alassane Ouattara, both of whom claim to have won the country's November 28 presidential run-off ballot. Election observers and the international community recognize Ouattara as the new leader.
The IRC has scaled back its programs in Ivory Coast in light of the political turmoil and worsening unrest. The programs, including medical care, sanitation, education and services for survivors of sexual violence, assist more than one million people recovering from a civil war in 2002 and ensuing periods of unrest.