Sylvain’s Story, Ivory Coast
I met Sylvain, a wiry man of 40, as he was cleaning off the day’s travel at a watering station set up in the transit center of Danané, in western Cote d’Ivoire, about 25 kilometers from the border with Liberia. He was reluctant to speak of what he saw during the 2010-2011 post-electoral crisis in Cote d’Ivoire, which resulted in the destruction of his home in the department of Zouan-Hounien, in the west of the country. “I was very afraid, many people had guns, and there was a lot of tension so I left in the night with my wife and our seven children.” His time in the refugee camp of Banh, in eastern Liberia, was marked by both physical and emotional hardship: his 9-year daughter, Victoire, died shortly after they arrived from an illness that also put him and his wife in the hospital.
Because of a shortage of food rations – the emergencies in Central Africa Republic, Sudan and Syria have depleted the international humanitarian agencies’ food stocks, resulting in smaller amounts being distributed in camps such as those in Liberia – Sylvain supplemented his family’s monthly rice rations by tilling other people’s fields. “We received food but it was not always enough to feed my children.” As a farmer by trade, he plans to pick up where he left off now that he is back in Cote d’Ivoire and recover the fields that he had left in the hands of his younger brother. “I am ready to help rebuild my country; there is no more violence and we now need to look towards the future.”
Text by N. Sturm/2014