Ivorian refugees in Liberia: We feel human again

Polou and family, after receiving relief supplies from CARE, provided by DfID

Polou is a 26 year old Ivorian, and a single mother of six young children. She fled Ivory Coast in May, seeking refuge in south eastern Liberia when rebels attacked the village where she lived with her children and two sisters.

“My community was attacked by armed militia late in the evening. There was gun fire all over the village. Very loud continuous firing that we had never witnessed before,” recounts Polou. 

“We were very frightened. There were no men in my house, only three women and the six children. We left the house and started running not knowing where we were going. We joined other women.”

Polou and her family spent three nights in the bush without food and water, sleeping on the ground.

On the third day, hungry and thirsty and needing to change their clothes, they decided to return home. They hoped that the militia would have left their village. However, half way back they were advised not to return home. The militia were still there, looting and killing innocent civilians. Polou was told that everyone in her village had either fled or was killed.

She then decided to join the other women and head for the border with Liberia. “My grandmother lived in Bargblor in Liberia. So I decided to walk there with the hope that I could find her,” she said. Unfortunately when Polou arrived, her grandmother had passed away. “But I met her sister who hosted us,” she said.

“I am happy now. But so many people, especially children, died on the way. They had no food to eat and were not able to walk continuously for three days.”

My children survived, but three of them are very sick and are still in hospital.

Refugees are arriving in Liberia nine months after the conflict started without any belongings, traumatised, exhausted, hungry and often sick. Communities in the south east of Liberia have been generous to the refugees. People have offered accommodation and food, making them welcome, partly as a gesture of reciprocation for the hospitality extended to Liberians during its civil war. Local residents have opened their houses, sheltering families at considerable sacrifice.

Polou appreciates this sacrifice and thanks her hosts. When asked whether she plans to return to Ivory Coast soon, Polou said:

I will stay here, in the host community as people are generous and great with me and I feel safe.

In May and June, CARE distributed items to refugees living in the community, including jerry cans, bath and laundry soap, mosquito nets, sanitary towels, sleeping mats. Polou has benefited from CARE’s relief distribution.  She is very happy with the items and especially the clothing. “They are nice and good quality. I arrived here without any additional clothes except what I wore when I left home that evening. Now I have clothing  -  I can store water in jerry cans, cook food for my children in proper pots, and eat on my own plates.”

Thanks CARE for making us feel like human beings again.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.