Hawa’s story: caring for Ivorian children in a refugee camp
By Sarah Oughton, international writer, British Red Cross
When Hawa Gbah, 32, fled conflict in the Ivory Coast she escaped with her one-year-old son but she doesn’t know what happened to her husband and three older children.
After a gruelling journey through the bush, Hawa arrived in Liberia and is now living in a camp outside Zorgowee town, Nimba county. Bouncing her young son on her knee, she told me: “When the fighting began I was at home with my youngest son, but my three older children were out with my husband.
“I was looking for them as I made my way to Liberia. Although I didn’t find them, I found four other children on the journey who I knew from my village. I brought them all with me and am now looking after them in this camp.”
Struggle for food
“I miss my husband and my other children,” Hawa said. “Now I’m the breadwinner and I have five children to look after but there’s no work here for me and life is very difficult.”
Although the security situation in the Ivory Coast continues to improve, there are still reports of outbreaks of violence, particularly in the west near the border with Liberia. Many refugees, like Hawa, feel too frightened to return home.
Red Cross support
“My brother-in-law is also here in the camp and the Red Cross has provided us with free phone calls,” Hawa said. “We have both tried calling my husband but cannot get through to him. I think he is still in the Ivory Coast but I don’t know where.”
Red Cross volunteers are working hard to help restore contact between families separated by the conflict. So far, in Liberia’s Nimba and Grand Gedeh counties the Red Cross has helped more than 3,250 people to make successful phone calls to family members.
For tens of thousands of displaced people in the west of the Ivory Coast and refugees in neighbouring Liberia, there is still concern about the danger of returning home.
Entire villages were devastated by the conflict, and the needs of residents and displaced people remain acute. The Red Cross is distributing supplies and food, making available drinking water and supporting medical facilities.