UN agency to set up Liberia camp for I. Coast refugees

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The UN refugee agency on Friday announced plans to set up its first camp in Liberia for refugees from Ivory Coast as 400-500 people per day flee across the border from violence and fears of civil war.

"The UN refugee agency will set up a special camp to shelter the thousands of refugees from Cote d'Ivoire seeking safety in neighbouring Liberia," the Geneva-based UNHCR said in a statement.

"The more than 18,000 Ivorians who have fled chaos and fear of violence in Cote d'Ivoire following November's disputed presidential election have strained the resources of the local communities hosting them," it said.

The agency said it was deploying additional staff to Liberia to assist in setting up the camp in the town of Saclepea in Nimba county near the border with Ivory Coast.

"Until now, local communities have hosted the refugees. But with an average of 400-500 arriving daily, it has become increasingly difficult for host communities to cope," the agency said.

The refugees are fleeing deadly post-election violence and fears of further unrest in Ivory Coast, where outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara have been locked in a standoff since last month's presidential election which both men claimed to have won.

The UNHCR said it had so far registered 18,091 refugees from Ivory Coast in Liberia, with 55 percent of them women and 62 percent under 18 years of age.

"This is the first camp for people from Cote d'Ivoire in Liberia," UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told AFP.

The agency said it had spent three million dollars (2.2 million euros) from its emergency funds to provide relief to Ivorian refugees in Liberia and had pre-positioned aid to assist 30,000 refugees if the need arises.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on Thursday appealed for urgent aid to help countries neighbouring Ivory Coast, including Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ghana, Liberia and Mali, to provide aid and prepare for a possible influx of refugees.

© 2010 AFP

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