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More than 100,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia

Liberia, April 11, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Natalie Behring-Chisholm/Getty Images  </span>
    More than 100,000 Ivorian citizens have fled into Liberia as refugees from a violent crisis. Photo: Natalie Behring-Chisholm/Getty Images
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mercy Corps Senior Water and Sanitation Advisor Mugur Dumitrache is in Liberia to identify the best way we can help the refugees from the Ivory Coast as well as their Liberian host families. Top of the list: food. Photo: Mercy Corps

Although a violent political stalemate has been resolved, more than 100,000 citizens of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) remain in neighboring Liberia as refugees. Mercy Corps has deployed emergency staff who have conducted assessments in affected communities and are now focusing on urgent water and sanitation needs.

Our team is working to put temporary water filtration units in place that will each serve the needs of up to 5,000 displaced people per day. These units have a short set-up time and are highly mobile, allowing for transport to multiple locations until more permanent water and sanitation solutions are developed.

Côte d'Ivoire's crisis stemmed from last November's disputed presidential election. A stand-off between two men who claimed to have won the election — Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara — turned deadly, with each politician's factions squaring off against each other. On April 11, Gbagbo was apprehended and arrested, but not before four months of brutal civil unrest drove thousands from their homes.

As many as 1,500 people have been killed and 300,000 people are displaced within the country — in addition to the 100,000 who've crossed the border into neighboring countries including Liberia.

Liberia, one of the world's 10 poorest countries, is ill-equipped to deal with refugees. Already-destitute communities don't have the food, shelter, water and sanitation to host thousands of additional people.

That's why Mercy Corps is pitching in to help alleviate this growing crisis. According to Mugur Dumitrache — Mercy Corps' Senior Water and Sanitation Advisor and a veteran of many emergency responses, including Haiti and Congo — here's a list of what refugees and host communities in beleaguered Grand Gedeh and Nimba Counties have prioritized as their most urgent needs:

  1. Food
  2. Non-food items such as kitchen supplies
  3. Water and health care
  4. Education and vocational training
  5. Latrines
  6. Mosquito nets
  7. Livelihoods and agricultural inputs

Mercy Corps has worked in Liberia since 2002, helping villages and families move past a 14-year civil war that decimated the country. With decades of experience in responding to conflict, crisis and displacement, we are well-equipped to respond to the short- and long-term needs of Ivorian refugees and their Liberian host communities.

We will keep you informed as our response continues.