- About 200 refugees continue to make their way into Benin every week, fleeing the continued political violence in Togo. An estimated 40,000 Togolese refugees now live in neighbouring Benin and Ghana and yet another 10,000 are expected to be internally displaced.
According to information released by the UN's Population Fund (UNFPA), the flow of refugees streaming out of Togo is without halt. Beninese authorities and UN agencies daily register about 200 newly arrived refugees fleeing the violence initiated by the military-installed regime.
Over 60 percent of the Togolese refugees in Benin are women, young people and children under five and "many of them suffer from malnutrition," according to the UN agency. About 10 percent of the women were reported to be "of child-bearing age."
Akpene Adankpo is one of the many Togolese refugees that escaped the fighting with her husband and five daughters, ages eight to one-and-a-half. She only had time to gather up her five girls before fleeing with her family across the border into Benin.
"They were firing guns in the quarter," Ms Adankpo told representatives of UNFPA in Benin. "They were killing people. We were afraid to be victims so we fled. We left everything," she explains.
"The violence continues still," confirms Ms Adankpo, sitting with her children on a mat outside the tent she shares with her family to escape the sweltering heat. "If that stops, then we will return. But for now, I will stay here with my family where it is safe."
In the refugee camps in Benin, safety is provided, but conditions are dire. Multiple cases of malnutrition have been identified and serious maternal health needs have been documented.
The Beninese government now has teamed up with UNFPA and humanitarian organisations to improve the conditions in the camps, as it becomes clear that the refugee population may stay for a long time. Health posts are being set up and supplementary food and vaccination programmes are being launched for pregnant women and their children.
Within Togo, several UN agencies are trying to assist the more than 10,000 internally displaced persons scattered all over the country and mostly staying with host families in outlying villages. Reproductive health supplies intended for pregnant women and young girls displaced by the conflict are now being distributed in Togo.
Together with the Togolese Ministry of Social Affairs, Women and Child Protection, UN agencies and humanitarian organisations further provide psychosocial counselling to the displaced persons. "Any displaced person who has been removed from his or her normal environment automatically becomes vulnerable," comments Fidelis Zama Chi, UNFPA's representative in Togo.
"Many have shattered lives and have lost family – a child losing a parent or a wife losing a husband. Some are victims of sexual abuse. Their lives must be rebuilt. That is the basis for this psychosocial counselling," Mr Zama Chi added.
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