Mamusu Greye, a single mother with four dependents, remembers the day when her family arrived at Tobanda, a U.N. refugee camp 15 miles west of Kenema, Sierra Leone. She received cooking utensils, plates, cups, spoons, a lantern, blankets, cans for water, plastic buckets and mats.
Her family receives food rations every month, but nonfood supplies are distributed only once—upon arrival at the camp.
After nearly three years of constant use and repair, little remains of those supplies. Greye is forced to borrow cooking pots from neighbors. When it rains at night, her family tries to sleep despite a badly leaking shelter.
Managed by the Lutheran World Federation, the camp houses 4,780 Liberian refugees.
With limited resources, LWF staff struggle to find ways to replenish nonfood supplies, especially for the most vulnerable refugees.
Morris T. Kulabengu, a refugee who serves as chair of the camp’s food and nonfood item committee, reported that many “are in such dire need ... some have [resorted] to using the ‘Charles Taylor lantern.’ ”
Named after the hardships Liberians encountered at the hands of the former rebel and exiled ex-president, the lantern is a piece of cotton in a metal plate or cup filled with oil—a serious fire hazard in a crowded camp.
But soon the camp may be a memory. With Liberia’s election of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Tobanda’s refugees say they are willing to be repatriated, although they still express caution about security in their homeland.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers