DRC exits from Liberia after 19 years in countryIn June 2017, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) ended its operations in Liberia and exited the country after 19 years. Speaking at the closing ceremony, Audrey Crawford, Country Director of DRC Liberia, said: “We view DRC’s departure as an overwhelmingly positive sign for Liberia and its future”.
DRC commenced operations in 1998 in Harper, after the end of the first civil war. The operation was initiated to assist Liberian refugees to return to Liberia from Côte d’Ivoire. Subsequent interventions adapted to the changing destabilising context and ensuing shocks. This included the construction and management of little Wlebo Refugee Camp to accommodate up to 10,000 Ivorian refugees escaping the outbreak of violence following the 2010 elections and the Ebola outbreak in 2014-2015.
Notable achievements during this time include a reduction in the instances of human rights violations and GBV. Community-based protection members have been trained and linked with stakeholders to continue mitigating conflicts and protection issues. Livelihoods and economic reliance has been strengthened in border communities. Psychosocial support has been provided to extremely vulnerable individuals through trained community volunteers. Large numbers of community members have been educated on mental health issues and myths, resulting in ongoing behavioural changes. More than 3,000 adolescent girls have an increased knowledge of family planning and the importance of education and school enrolment has increased thanks to DRC’s “back-to-school” campaigns and assistance programmes.
Reflecting on the impact of DRC’s programming in Liberia, Audrey Crawford emphasised: “The success we have achieved with the people of Maryland, River Gee, Nimba and Lofa Counties is the result of years of hard work and dedication, not only by DRC staff, but also by community members, state actors and our partners at every level”.
In order to ensure the sustainability of these 19 years of programming and a responsible exit, DRC has strengthened and trained Community-Based Protection Committees and State Actors to identify and respond to cases of human rights violations, extreme vulnerability and social cohesion. Early Warning Systems have also been supported to effectively document and respond to forced displacements, security incidents, and Ebola flare-ups. Lastly, DRC has shared programme, activity, and CBPC information with other NGOs, both local and international, so that they may continue to support if needed.
As remarked by Sam Kpah, a long-term staff member, during the closing ceremony: “DRC came to Liberia in a time of relative peace and is leaving in a time of peace”. However, DRC is not leaving West Africa but following the evolving humanitarian crises in the Lake Chad region. In 2015, DRC opened a mission in Nigeria, one in Niger in 2016 and will open another in Cameroon in September 2017.