Foan Theolile (centre) with other Ivorian refugees during a food distribution at the Bahn refugee camp in eastern Liberia. Copyright: WFP/Roslyn Ratliff
Foan Theolile never imagined that a simple infection could cost her son his leg. Then fighting broke out across Cote d’Ivoire and, unable to find a doctor, they were forced to seek help in Liberia. Though too late to save his leg, at least now they have a safe place to wait out the conflict and food to eat while her son recovers.
BAHN (Liberia) – Foan Theolile would not have come to Liberia if her 26-year-old son hadn’t come down with a foot infection. It started innocently enough with a bit of itching and might have gone away had he been able to continue treatment.
Then fighting erupted in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan and suddenly doctors and nurses were nowhere to be found. Theolile stayed in the city for another three weeks trying to find someone who could help them, while her son’s infection got worse and worse.
“His foot was all black and it was spreading up his leg,” said Theolile, who had no choice at that point but to join the river of Ivorian refugees to Liberia.
Forced to flee
After a two-day bus ride from Abidjan to the Liberian border, Theolile’s son was taken to a clinic where doctors tried to save his leg. But the infection was too far advanced and there was nothing they could do.
After the operation, Theolile and her family were relocated to the Bahn refugee camp where they are currently surviving on food assistance.
Before coming to Liberia, Theolile was a travelling merchant selling clothes and jewellery along the borders of Mali and Ghana. She speaks English, French and the local Gio language, which has allowed her to make some extra money interpreting in the camp.
Theolile says she’s relieved that she and her children are safe and have something to eat, but that they still haven’t absorbed the shock of her son’s operation and of having to leave home.
“I’m too worried about my family to think about the future,” she says. “All I know is that I want things to go back to normal and for us all to go home.”