Homeward bound with food assistance, Ivorians leave Liberia

From a small hill overlooking the Cavally river that separates Côte d’Ivoire from Liberia, Tchapi Antoine can follow the Ivorian refugees  crossing the river back to  their homeland. Tchapi Antoine recently made the same journey – returning to Côte d’Ivoire after almost two years as a refugee in Liberia, receiving WFP food assistance.

The political turmoil and violence that followed the contested presidential elections in late 2010 resulted in a mass population displacement. Hundreds of thousands fled to the neighboring countries – one of them was Tchapi Antoine. Watching the refugees now return, fills his eyes with tears. “Their decision is wise,” he says.

With significant improvements to the security situation in 2013, refugees in large numbers are now returning to Côte d’Ivoire. They are supported by WFP and partner organizations UNHCR and IOM. Each returning refugee is given food covering the needs for one month, kitchen utensils, sheets, mats and a cash allowance – US$ 150 for adults and US$ 100 for children under 18 years.

Most of the refugees lost everything during the political upheaval. As was the case for Totoyé Apollinaire from the village of Boke. With the support from WFP and UNHCR, he now is able to resume his agricultural activities and thus support his family of 12.

And Nyema, who returned with her two children, says she will soon be able to resume work in her 2 acres rice field, a big smile on her face.

WFP and UNHCR continue to support the returnees in their villages for three months. There are still thousands of Ivorian refugees in Liberia but the hope is that also they will return.

Tchapi Antoine still has relatives in Liberia and he does not understand their reluctance to come home. For him, “life was not easy out there” and he feels that the situation now is safe for everyone to return.