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UN agency starts moving Ivorian refugees in Liberia to new camp

18 February 2011 – The United Nations refugee agency today began relocating Ivorians who fled the political turmoil and violence in their country away from the border area in Liberia to a newly established camp further west, aiming to move an estimated 15,000 people into the camp in the next couple of weeks.

The first group of 100 refugees from Côte d'Ivoire boarded trucks from the villages of Old Luguato, Kissiplay and Duoplay in Liberia’s Nimba County to be transported to the camp at Bahn, 50 kilometres to the west, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

Road conditions are extremely poor in that part of Liberia and the journey is expected to take up to six hours. The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is helping improve some of the roads.

“The Bahn camp is within easier reach of our offices in Saclapea [and] refugees there will have ready access to basic services in the camp such as healthcare, clean water and primary school education in French, based on the Ivorian curriculum,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva.

UNHCR’s partner, the Norwegian Refugee Council, is building shelters in the camp for families to move into on arrival, Mr. Edwards said. Larger numbers of people arriving subsequently will first stay in the camp’s transit centre, where they will be provided with materials to build their own shelters.

The agency has so far registered 38,257 Ivorian refugees in Nimba County, all of whom fled Côte d’Ivoire following the unrest associated with November’s presidential elections.

Although the majority of the refugees have expressed a desire to be relocated to the camp, there are those who prefer to remain in host communities. UNHCR has identified 15 locations where those who want to live among Liberian villagers will stay. Many of those are women who say their husbands are still in Côte d’Ivoire and are likely to join them later.

In both the camp and relocation villages, vulnerable persons such as those with disabilities and elderly unaccompanied people will be assisted with shelter construction.

Côte d’Ivoire descended into turmoil in early December when outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave office despite opposition leader Alassane Ouattara’s UN-certified victory in the run-off poll. Mr. Ouattara has been recognized by the international community as the duly elected president.

Meanwhile, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) today voiced concern over Côte d’Ivoire’s deteriorating health system, saying the situation has been exacerbated by the post-election crisis.

A number of epidemics erupted recently, including yellow fever, cholera and measles, according to Fadela Chaib, the WHO spokesperson in Geneva.

Yellow fever has hit four districts since the end of last year, mostly in the north where there have been 14 cases, including 10 deaths, and in the central part of the country where 18 cases, including nine deaths, have been reported. In total, there have been 79 cases of yellow fever, including 26 deaths.

WHO and partners, including the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), organized a vaccination campaign between 21 and 28 January during which more than 700,000 people over the age of six months were vaccinated.

Measles was reported in Adiake district in the south, with 47 cases identified. WHO started a measles vaccination campaign yesterday, which will continue until 26 February with the aim of reaching 100,000 children over the age of six months.

In addition, some 358 cases of cholera have been reported in the commercial capital, Abidjan, including 11 deaths, and WHO has helped train local health workers to care for those affected.

Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has given his backing to a five-member panel from the African Union that is set to visit Côte d’Ivoire next week to try to resolve the ongoing political crisis, and urged all Ivorian parties to extend their full cooperation to the panel’s efforts.

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