The Liberian refugee camp was established in 1990 when the first batch of Liberians fled Liberia during the height of the civil war. As war escalated to all country, the camp continue to balloon with a number of refugees of about 55,000, in the late 2004. With this huge number, the land of about 75 meters square allocated by UNHCR became very small, so the refugees in their own way scattered in some nearby Ghanaian villages, towns, and cities. As prolongation in the civil war regrettably ruined all hopes of returning home, misshape tents give way to permanent structures and the Camp became a Refugee Settlement.
Unlike other refugee camps around the world, the support of UNHCR in Buduburam is rather limited. Besides security, it includes a monthly food ration of maize to less than ten percent of the refugee population, a class they termed most vulnerable. Some people are surviving on remittent fund from friends and relatives who were fortunate enough to have being resettled from the refugee camp to the United States, Canada, Australia, Norway, etc; while the bulk of refugees, especially women and children, are constrained by circumstances to engage into some detrimental activities so as to meet their daily subsistence.
In order to address the needs of education, health, and socio-economic development of these refugees, numerous camp based NGOs, among which is the Center for Youth Empowerment, were organized by some visionary Liberian refugees. These NGOs often rely on grants and other assistance from philanthropists, donor institutions, charitable organizations, and some individuals of good will.
There are currently 57 schools operating in the Camp, among which six are senior secondary. In order to subsidize the teachers, most of whom are Liberian refugees, an average tuition of 30$USD is paid by refugee student per term. In Buduburam, the ratio between parents and kids in scholar age is one to four, making the fees costly for parents to afford. It is in this vein that the Center for Youth Empowerment has initiated the Education Program/Scholarship. Although the teachers in the refugee camp are not paid by the Ghanaian Government, the school curriculum is in accordance with the Ghanaian school system, and is therefore recognized by the Ghanaian Education board.
Christian and Muslim are the two main religions in the Buduburam Refugee Camp, Christian is the most popular religion, and is highly represented in almost every denomination. There are over one hundred churches, and only one mosque. On Sunday, refugees dress elegantly attending their individual churches so as to praise the Almighty God, through who divine blessing they are able to survive the adversities in the daily routine of the life of a refugee.
The refugees are vividly fond of sports, especially football. There are two main sports pitches in the Buduburam Camp, with hundreds of others imposed in open areas, and among houses. With a fence built of reeves around the two recognized sports pitches, spectators are requested to pay a fee of 0.25$USD to gain admittance in the field, during an important game. Usually there are tournaments organized either by the Liberian Welfare Council or organized groups like NGO's, etc. Besides, the refugees have favoured some football clubs in Europe like Chelsea, Barcelona, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Liverpool, etc., gathering in video clubs and cheering with excitement whenever these teams are playing. Other games favoured are basketball and kickball. These are also intended to detraumatize the refugees, making their daily life less hard.
There is one main market at the Buduburam Refugee Camp. Only in this market you can find Liberian most favoured food stuffs, and other refugees not living in the camp come from far and near on weeks-ends to buy food-stuffs for the next week. In this market most of the marketers are Liberian refugees themselves. With money remitted to them by friends and relatives abroad, they managed to endow through petty trading so as to sustain the family. Besides the main market, there are small shops, table markets, video-clubs, restaurants, beer-bars, beauty-saloons and water reservoirs operated by refugees themselves so as to make life easier.
The camp is controlled by the Liberian refugee welfare council. This council is composed by a group of Liberians (appointed by the refugees themselves to coordinate the activities between refugees), by the UNHCR and the Ghanaian Government. On the camp the Ghanaian Government is represented by the Camp manager.
There is one police station aided by vigilantes, a neighbourhood watch team organized by the refugees to aid the police in their operation. The camp is proportioned into areas or zones. Each zone or area is represented by an area head. The camp is composed by twelve zones, and the thirteenth zone is the cemetery. In the cemetery, burial is never free. The family of the decease has to report the news of the death to the Ghanaian chief with money and drinks. The chief will then perform some traditional cremation to appease their god before securing a portion of land for burial. To disseminate information in the form of announcement, the refugees use a megaphone. With speakers placed high up in the branches of tall trees, this instrument quite clearly convey information to refugees in the vicinity of more than one kilometre away.
Water is a valuable treasure in Buduburam Camp. It is only by the aid of tankers hanged on trucks that water is accessible to the camp. On a commercial basis, the owners of these tankers unload the water in water reservoirs owned by Liberian refugees, who then sell the water to fellow refugees by gallons. In fact this type of water is not purified and is only good for cooking and washing. Potable water is sold in sacks, with each sack containing 30 packages of 500 millilitres each. This is also accessible to the camp only by means of trucks/vehicles.
Toilet facilities are limited. Recently the UNHCR has built some public toilets, but poor maintenance and fees charged force refugees to still use bushes in close proximity to ease themselves. The poor maintenance poses hygienic problems, and using the bushes hangs danger to the lives of refugees as they are sometimes bitten by poisonous snakes or chased by some cruel Ghanaians who will not permit them to ease themselves on land totally covered by high bushes. To dispose daily wastes, the UNHCR placed trolleys in some strategic areas easily accessible for refugees to plonk their rejects. Every morning these trolleys are hauled by tractors to far-away garbage sites.
Time in Buduburam camp is very inexpensive. With no specific assignment during the day, men are found playing games like checkers, lulu, pool and scrabbles. To make the day tolerant, there are usually heated, uninterrupted arguments about world's football players. Sometimes arguments are furious, sometimes very friendly. There is one main artye herb tea shop. This is the place where African herb in the form of tea is sold. Here you will find intellectual Liberians like ex-professors, exiled politicians, universities graduates among others, sipping their artye herb tea, philosophising political issues about Liberia, Africa and the global world, perhaps oblivious that their opinions or judgments have little or no significance in the political arena.