By Moustapha Diallo in Côte d'Ivoire
In the village of Toulépleu, in western Côte d'Ivoire, the inhabitants who returned recently from Liberia after fleeing the post-electoral crisis are trying to remove the rubble of their homes with their bare hands. Here and there, the place looks like a phantom village; all the houses were partially or completely burnt.
Marcel Guiro, who is 27 and married with one child, is trying to salvage calcined iron sheets that can still serve as a roof. Four months ago, when his village was attacked, he had to flee with his family, approximately ten people, to seek refuge in the neighbouring Liberia.
"We left with nothing in the middle of the night and we walked 22 kilometres," he says. "My aunt succumbed along the way to the bullet wounds she received during the attack. We did not even have time to give her a proper burial. A nine-year old child also died along the way due to snake bite."
In Liberia, Marcel Guiro’s family was hosted by close relatives. They slept in the veranda of their host family and lived in precarious conditions.
"Everything was lacking: water, food, latrines," Marcel explains.
With the improved security in Côte d'Ivoire, Marcel returned to the village with his wife to try to rescue whatever could be saved. The rest of the family remained in Liberia, along with many of their neighbours, waiting for security to be fully restored. Many families want to return home but have nowhere to stay. Others are traumatized and are waiting for better security guarantees. Marcel, his wife and young child sleep out in the open, exposed to both bad weather and mosquitoes.
Reconstruction in the village will take time and money, but the process looks unlikely to happen in the short term. Without means and assistance, Marcel will find it difficult to renovate his family’s home and, in the meantime, must deal with the fact that his family’s stores of grain were plundered during the attack on the village.
Thousands of Ivorian in the west of the country are in the same situation as Marcel. Funds are urgently needed to assist with their recovery.