A school without a roof – Liberia – Glenna Gordon

A school without a roof is a school without any students. As the United Nations made trip after trip to the border between Liberia and Ivory Coast during post election violence that sent more than 160,000 Ivoirians into neighboring Liberia, there were many unintended consequences. A helicopter pilot for UNMIL, the UN mission in Liberia, hovered over the school in the remote town of Buutuo for just a bit too long. The wind created by the chopper blew the zinc roof off and left it in a mangled pile behind the building.
There weren’t many students at school anyway. The tens of thousands of refugees that poured over the border between December and April slept in schools, churches, relative’s homes, stranger’s homes, outside, inside, anywhere they could lie down.

Though the political situation in Ivory Coast has been stabilized, few refugees are going home. Many are staying in camps set up by UNHCR, others remain in villages along the border. The kind of fear that motivates a family to leave behind their homes and their lives is slow to dissipate when the threat of further conflict remains a reality.

Many international NGOs and UN agencies are doing their best to assist remote communities. But for most organizations, and most villages there are simply too many mouths to feed.

Glenna Gordon is a freelance photojournalist and writer who spends her time in West Africa and New York. She was one of the only photojournalists working on the Ivory Coast-Liberia border.

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