Amid political tensions in Ivory Coast, more and more Ivorians are fleeing into neighboring countries like Liberia, UNHCR reports. Their number has risen to over 8,000 in just one week.
The number of Ivorian refugees who have fled into neighboring countries amid political tensions in Ivory Coast has risen from 3,200 to 8,000 in just one week, UNHCR said in a online statement published on November 10.
The UN refugee agency said it was "ramping up its support fearing that continuing violence will force more people out of the country."
As of 9 November, the vast majority of Ivorian refugees -- over 7,500 -- had fled to neighboring Liberia. Over 60% of arrivals are children, some of whom arrived unaccompanied or separated from their parents.
Older people and pregnant women have also fled, most of them carrying just a few belongings and little to no food or money, UNHCR warned.
Earlier this month, Deutsche Welle (DW) reported that the election-related violence in Ivory Coast has left at least a dozen people dead.
Support from UNHCR
"Some Ivorian refugees," UNHCR said in its statement, "report they were initially prevented from leaving the country and forced to find alternative routes to enter neighboring Liberia." In Liberia, the majority of refugees told UNHCR staff they "wish to remain close to the border and return as soon as the situation stabilizes."
The UN agency added it was "planning to airlift essential relief items for up to 10,000 refugees in Liberia." What's more, UNHCR teams in Liberia were preparing to provide "humanitarian aid, food, and cash assistance."
According to its statement, the UN refugee agency also "deployed technical teams to address water, sanitation, and shelter needs." Meanwhile, Ivorians who have arrived in Ghana, Guinea and Togo are also receiving immediate assistance, UNHCR said.
It further said it has "increased border monitoring to ensure that the new arrivals are quickly identified and receive the assistance they need."
Fears among Ivorian population
UNHCR also said that the current situation in Ivory Coast would stoke fears among Ivorians as it reminded them of the country's civil war following the 2010 presidential election, which claimed the lives of more than some 3,000 people. An additional 300,000 Ivorians were "forced to flee across the region," and one million were displaced inside the country, the statement stressed.
Furthermore, UNHCR expressed its gratitude toward the governments of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Togo for "granting Ivorian refugees access to asylum on their territory, despite the border restrictions due to COVID-19."
"We continue to work closely with governments and other UN partners in the region and are prepared to activate our joint contingency plans should refugee movements accelerate," the statement concluded.