The life of Ivorian refugees: surviving on the edge of hope

Published: 25 October 2011 15:13 CET

By Moustapha Diallo in Cote d'Ivoire

Fambo Gueï Denis left his village of Meo, in western Cote d'Ivoire, when post-election troubles broke out, to seek refuge in the bush. He had to flee in the middle of the night with his wife and 12 children, travelling several miles to find a ‘Gnondjé’. In the local language this means: the refuge where no one can see me. To survive, Fambo and his family had to eat wild fruits and roots.

After nearly seven months of wandering in the bush, exposed to weather and reptiles, Fambo decided to return to his home village. On his return, he found his house completely burnt, grain stores emptied, and all his possessions gone. Just like all the inhabitants of Meo village .

Despite his destitution, Fambo is happy to return home and relieved that the conflict is largely over.

Today, thanks to the Red Cross of Côte d'Ivoire aid program, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Fambo is reconstructing his life. He is one of thousands of Ivorians who have received support through a return and resettlement package composed of tarpaulins, shelter materials, mosquito nets, kitchen sets, buckets, basins, jerrycans, clothing, mats, and blankets.
In total, more than 4,000 families have benefited from this support for their resettlement in Toulepleu.

Assistance may seem small, but for families who have lost everything it is a new beginning. The Red Cross also assists in providing safe drinking water, constructing  latrines, providing primary health care, and restoring livelihoods through the distribution of seeds and fertilizers.

“We don’t have enough to eat but at least we’ve got home to start a new life and a glimpse of life with hope through the Red Cross,” Fambo said.

Thousands of families in western Cote d’Ivoire, have left the bush or neighbouring Liberia, to return to their devastated villages after hearing about the Red Cross assistance and the improved of security in the region.

Some have benefited from this assistance to relocate, while others still live in homes without roofs or in makeshift shelters, exposed to the rains.

Many families still remain in Liberia, living in precarious conditions. Most of them do not feel they can return to villages where they have nothing. For those families who have returned, or who remain in Liberia, food, shelter, health services, and support are urgent needs. Without assistance, their situation will deteriorate further.

The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal for 6.7 million Swiss francs (USD 7.8 million, 5.5 million EUR) to provide assistance to 60,000 people affected by the post-election crisis in Côte d'Ivoire, mainly in the west. To date, it has received only ten per cent of funds requested while the needs are still immense.