“The number of refugees and internally displaced people is reaching worrying proportions and with violence against civilians continuing in Côte d’Ivoire it can only get worse,” said WFP’s Regional Director Thomas Yanga. “We are striving to feed hungry, displaced people and refugees, but our movements within Côte d’Ivoire are limited by insecurity and violence, and we are increasingly worried about the strain that refugees are placing on local communities in Liberia.”
In Côte d’Ivoire, WFP plans to assist 125,000 people over a six-month period. This will include food distributions and special help for malnourished children under five, as well as pregnant women, nursing mothers and people living with HIV/AIDS. The operation will cost almost US$16 million. Many banks are closed, fuel prices are rising, and transporters are often unwilling to provide trucks or drivers to move food to the hungry.
In neighbouring Liberia, a new wave of people arrived after fighting flared in Côte d’Ivoire at the end of February, almost doubling the number of Ivorian refugees in the country to around 80,000. Many of the new arrivals are being sheltered and fed by local villagers, but the increase in refugee numbers coincides with the end of the harvest period, when household stocks of food are dwindling.
“I was at the border in Liberia last week and there are families there who have been hosting people for four or five months now,” Yanga said. “Both we and the government are very concerned about the impact on the local population, who are feeding and sheltering refugee families while trying to meet their own nutritional needs.”
WFP is now aiming to help some 186,000 people in Liberia with 25,000 metric tons of food at a cost of US$35 million. The assistance will help refugees and also the local population, many of whom have taken people into their own homes, said Yanga.
“This is a challenging operation in a remote and inaccessible area of Liberia,” Yanga added. “Moving food is a challenge and the rainy season, which starts in April, will only make things more difficult. We need to act urgently.”