Michael is seventeen years old. In March, 2011 he fled Telwon, his home village in Ivory Coast, which is about 100 kilometres from the border with Liberia, when it was attacked by armed militias after the presidential elections held in November, 2010. Michael lost his parents, relatives and friends in the violence that ensued. He was only saved because he is handicapped.
“I walked from Ivory Coast to Liberia,” Michael recalled to a CARE staff. “I spent five days and nights on the road. I used the bush path to avoid the militias. I slept in the open most of the time. I was bitten by mosquitoes and all types of insects and reptiles. However, some of the people I travelled with were kind to share their food, mostly wild food, and water, with me, even though I had never met them. Sometimes, when I was not able to walk, they carried me in turns so that we could move quickly and avoid the militias”.
Michael arrived in Liberia with only the clothes he was wearing. He had no food and was hungry. He spent almost a week in a transit camp with little or no assistance. As he is disabled and shy, he felt overlooked and did not receive prompt assistance as a refugee. He eventually met the CARE field team and introduced himself. “I know the work of CARE with internally displaced persons in Ivory Coast, so I was sure they will help me,” said Michael.
CARE staff took him to the office of the Liberian Government agency responsible for registering refugees. After his registration, CARE provided Michael with water containers, a sleeping mat and blanket, a set of cooking pots, plates and cups, in addition to a hygiene kit. “I could not afford these items on my own. The sleeping mat and blanket gives me more comfort. Eating from a plate after almost a month is a big relief. I can now wash using the soap, towel toothbrush and toothpaste in the hygiene kit. I can collect and store water using the water containers. With the help of CARE, I was able to track down a family friend in a town called Bargblor, in Grand Gedeh County. She immediately opened her home to me. I am happy because now feel protected. CARE saw my need and responded. Thanks to CARE for helping me. I really appreciate your intervention in my life. I was overlooked, but now, CARE makes me feel good”.
With funding from the UK’s Department for International Development, CARE and its local partner are providing a wide range of essential emergency items such as blankets, sleeping mats cooking utensils, mosquito net to 15,000 refugees. CARE is also constructing wells and latrines and providing protection against gender based violence.