Burkina Faso + 4 more

Humanitarian Envoy underscores impact of Côte d'Ivoire crisis on region

(United Nations: 7 February 2003) - Carolyn McAskie, the Secretary-General's Humanitarian Envoy for the Crisis in Cote d'Ivoire, has just completed visits to Ghana, Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Guinea, where she got a first-hand look at the effects the crisis is having on neighboring countries. Upon her return to Abidjan, she urged donors to address the regional impacts. "There is a lot that needs to be done by the international community to help. I think we should be generous at this time."
The crisis in Cote d'Ivoire is "quite serious as far as the neighboring countries are concerned, and each country has its own particularity," Ms. McAskie said. In Ghana, the effect of the crisis is already obvious, with up to 40,000 Liberian refugeesand thousands of nationals of other countries who are transiting Ghana from Cote d'Ivoire. "We are not sure yet how many Ivorian refugees may seek asylum in Ghana. This will put humanitarian pressure on a country which to date has not been known to suffer a humanitarian crisis, "Ms. McAskie said.

In Burkina Faso a key concern is that the 2-3 million people in Cote d'Ivoire who could qualify as Burkina Faso citizens might be required to return to Burkina Faso territory. "For a poor country it's very difficult to absorb so many people particularly as many of them are two or three generations away from any link with the Burkina Faso community. They've already dealt by the end of January with at least 60,000 returnees, and the steady stream has not stopped, "Ms. McAskie said. The crisis is also having economic impact on Burkina Faso, as it has disrupted the flow of remittances from Cote d'Ivoire that constitutes a substantial portion of Burkina Faso's GDP.

Liberia is also heavily affected by the crisis. The recent intensification of fighting along the Guinean-Ivorian border has led to a noticeable increase in the number of Ivorians seeking refuge in Liberia. Ms. McAskie also reffered to the bias against Liberians in Cote d'Ivoire and the protection problems this presents. Ms. McAskie said Liberians are "seen fighting on the government's side as well as on the rebel side, so the innocent Liberians, many of whom have been in Cote d'Ivoire fleeing the Liberian conflict for as many as 10 years, are tarred with the same brush. Too many people are saying there is no such thing as a 'good Liberian'. This offers a serious problem of protection not only to Liberians trapped at the border but also for Liberians trapped in Abidjan."

For its part, Guinea, one of the least developed countries in the world, is suffering from the influx of still more groups of vulnerable people. Prior to the outbreak of armed conflict in Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea hosted more than 92,000 refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone and accounts for a very high percentage of received refugees in Africa. The country now faces an influx not only of Ivorian refugees but also of Liberian refugees in Cote d'Ivoire seeking refuge in Guinea. An already substantial caseload is further increased by a number of foreigners fleeing Cote d'Ivoire who intend to transit Liberia, but need help in reaching countries as far flung as Mauritania and Nigeria.

The United Nations has issued a Flash Appeal for $22 million to meet humanitarian needs caused by the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire. To date, only 11 per cent of the funds requested have been received.

For further information, please contact
Abidjan: Jeff Brez, tel. 225 2240 4442


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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