The UN estimates that over 125,000 people have fled the violence in Côte d’Ivoire and crossed the border into Liberia. The majority of refugees in the Bahn Refugee Camp are children, the number increasing daily as more displaced people continue to make the treacherous journey to the camp.
Six SOS staff have already met refugees in the camp to talk to them about how SOS can best meet their needs. This is Woko's story:
"Our parents are not with us. Our father died in the war and we still can't find our mother", explains 23-year-old Woko (below). Woko is now taking responsibility for her three younger siblings; a girl with disabilities; a baby girl and another little boy. "I do not have the skills to take care of three siblings but I must do it because our parents are not with us. Therefore, I tried to hold them together and get them in the UNHCR truck to Liberia. I really don't know how to give my brother and sisters real care. I have never had a child before. I have no profession and no money to care for them. We only depend on the food from this camp to survive.”
SOS Children organised a relief convoy which arrived in the camp on 5 May. In cooperation with the camp coordinators, six SOS staff accompanying the convoy immediately began distributing the items to the families. Items included mattresses and blankets for the most vulnerable, as well as rice and other foods so that families can meet their nutritional needs.
Food items were also given to volunteers working in the makeshift kitchen in the camp, who prepare hot meals for newly arrived refugees, many arriving after days of walking in the forest without food or shelter. SOS staff helped with the preparation and serving of the meals.
The refugees arrive at the camp with many medical problems. There are many children with skin diseases caused by lack of hygiene, proper sanitation and clothing. Médecins Sans Frontières have established a clinic within the camp and are able to treat most cases on site. SOS are helping to prevent the spread of diseases by providing 1,900 mosquito nets for families to sleep under.
UNHCR are in the process of registering all refugees in order to reunite families which have been separated in the chaos. Unaccompanied children are being placed with foster parents within the camps until they can be reunited with their families.Once the situation in Côte d’Ivoire has settled, SOS will assist with reuniting unaccompanied children with their families.
Another SOS relief convoy will be initiated on the 14 May, delivering additional items to the camp.The general conditions in the camp are improving, with organisations taking responsibly for providing services for the families and children living there. SOS have experience providing emergency relief in times of crisis and will continue to support refugees in need.
You can read the stories of Touego and Kapeu and how they came to live in the Bahn Refugee Camp here.