On the front lines of the Ivorian crisis

Tubman Hospital Refugee Patient

By Andrew  Zolli
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewer and interviewees.

The post-election crisis in Ivory Coast has been transformed from a political standoff to a humanitarian catastrophe. Ethnic groups loyal to strongman Laurent Gbagbo and those loyal to president-elect Alassane Ouattara have clashed with horrifying results: so far the Red Cross has discovered 800 bodies in one village alone; the U.N. discovered another 118, many burned alive.

While Gbagbo’s arrest on April 11 represents a turning point in the crisis, this shockwave of violence has created a refugee crisis in neighboring Liberia, as an estimated 100,000 Ivorians have poured over the border into the country in recent weeks. Their arrival has overwhelmed the already fragile and under-resourced rural public health system in southeastern Liberia.

2010 Social Innovation Fellow Dr. Raj Panjabi and his colleagues are on the front lines of this unfolding crisis. Their community-based health organization, Tiyatien Health, is working with the Liberian Ministry of Health and other partners at one Liberian district hospital and sixteen clinics in some of the areas most seriously affected. We spoke to Panjabi and Dr. Yesero Kalisa, Tiyatien Health’s Clinical Director, who are heroically trying to provide care at the only hospital in the county, Tubman Hospital.