Minnesota’s ARC builds refugee camps in Liberia


The Minnesota-based American Refugee Committee is helping refugees from the Ivory Coast, who have fled to Liberia.  “We have been building emergencies shelters in Nimba County, Liberia since December.” said Daniel Wordsworth, president of American Refugee Committee, headquartered in Minneapolis. “The number of refugees fleeing to Liberia could reach 175,000 to 250,000 with worse case being 500,000.” 

Widespread violence broke out in the Ivory Coast, mainly in the city of Abidjan, after the 2010 presidential election in November. Ivory Coast president, Laurent Gbago, refuses to step down, though election results indicate that he was defeated by challenger Alassane Outattara.

“The Ivory Coast (also known as Cote d’Ivore) is a politically divided country north and south with differing ethnic and religious groups,” said Wordsworth.  

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported in mid-March that the number of refugees who have fled into Liberia is now 90,000 and 300,000 have been displaced from Abidjan alone.  Many are still in transit or seeking refuge in other countries. 

“While international attention has been focused in recent weeks on the events in North Africa, the unfolding tragedy in West Africa has gone largely overlooked,” Melissa Fleming, UNHCR spokesperson, said on their website.

ARC is an international organization that provides shelter, clean water and sanitation, health care, skills training, and protection for survivors of war or natural disasters.  “Beside constructing shelters, we are providing protection for women and children especially in outlying areas; and whatever structure and normalcy for the many children there,” said Wordsworth.

“They all had to leave their businesses, their jobs, their savings, their belongings as they flee,” said Jemini Pandya, spokesperson for International Organization for Migration as reported by Voice for America.

“There simply isn’t enough food to go around.  The number of toilets and water pumps in the area is appallingly low for such a swollen population.  Finally the threat of malaria stalks the refugee population.”as reported by Merlin Organization, an international health organization for global emergencies.  Article reads “March 17-Ivory Coast refugees in Liberia: Merlin’s response.”

If readers want to donate or volunteer, they can contact www.ARCrelief/whatcanIdo or take the class “Introduction to Humanitarian Assistance” in Minneapolis at the ARC office, April 7 to June 2, by calling Mark Turbak at 651-278-6047 or e-mail markt@archq.org.