Rebecca’s Story, Ghana
I had just joined UNHCR, in early 2011, and never met displaced people before. I was posted to a duty station with 2 staff members only and so we were 3 preparing for a possible emergency situation from neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire, which was experiencing a post-election conflict. One night in early March, I woke up from sleep because a family had arrived at the border and immigration had put them in a hotel. When two of us got there the following day, there was this single father with his two children. I paid the hotel bill and took them to the village near by, where we were to put up the camp.
They looked devastated and needed food, water, clothing and sleeping items, which we provided. He broke down when telling that, during the flight, he lost his wife and newborn baby. That evening, 54 people arrived – all with a different story to tell. One colleague, who worked with immigration officers at the border, did their profiling and arrangements of cooked food for all of them at a parish house. I mobilized 4 volunteers and joined them in building tents. We worked all day, and by night we had built 6 tents in order to provide shelters over new arrivals’ heads. When the food was ready, the adults at first refused to eat. I sang French songs to the tired, traumatized children, and I served food to them, suddenly mothers followed, and then the men also ate something!
This was the first day of the beginning of our Ivorian camps in Ghana.
By Rebecca Kitcher
UNHCR Field Assistant