Opening of borders reunites families and improves living conditions

The Danish Refugee Council have advocated for the reopening of the land border between Côte d'Ivoire and neighboring Liberia and Guinea and, in early September, the border restrictions put in place 2 years ago to avoid the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) was suspended – the outbreak declared over by the WHO in June. The decision has been very well received by communities living at the border as it will have a direct and positive impact on their living conditions.

The impacts of the reopening are already apparent. Families torn apart by the closure are finally gathered and the commercial exchanges between Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire have resumed. Thus, Liberian saleswomen are finally allowed to come back on the market in Toulepleu, West Côte d’Ivoire. Before the border closure, cross-border exchanges were an important sources of livelihoods for many families in both countries. As a consequence, the reopening of the border is, for many saleswomen, the opportunity to resume their economic activities and exchanges with the neighboring country.

“The closure of the border had a negative impact on our living conditions: in the village, we could no longer make enough money to support ourselves. Trading with Liberia is essential for the well-being of our community. Now, with the reopening, we can cross the border easily and trade with women on the other side. Life will be simpler for us”, said a saleswoman in Prollo, South West Côte d’Ivoire.

Another aspect of the closed border was the difficulties and dangers of informal crossings faced by local traders who were forced to take the chance.

“When the border was closed, we had to hide and pay for crossing to Liberia. It was dangerous and stressful”, declared an Ivorian trader living in South West Côte d’Ivoire, at the border of Liberia.

A feeling shared by the Mayor of Konowroken, Liberia: “The lack of free movement was not something easy when the border closed. Every day, our people would cross looking for business and may not return… We never knew.”

If the reopening of the border is a positive step taken by the Ivorian government, many issues, as racketeering, still persist, which keeps on constituting a direct threat to the border communities. Community leaders work on the easing of the situation, with the continuing monitoring support of DRC.