Burkina Faso + 2 more

Senior Red Cross officials discuss response to Côte d'Ivoire refugee/returnee crisis

The conflict in Côte d'Ivoire has the potential to spark a serious regional crisis, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has warned, as senior Red Cross officials meet to discuss a response to the wave of refugees and returnees that are leaving the West African state for neighbouring countries.
The meeting in Abidjan is being attended by senior and operation figures from the National Red Cross Societies of Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, as well as representatives of the International Federation and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Representatives of United Nations agencies in the region, eager to coordinate their response with that of the Red Cross, are also attending.

As soon as the conflict erupted on 19 September 2002, people began pouring into neighbouring countries like Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Often the Red Cross is the first port of call as people arrive, offering them first aid, information and counselling.

Several thousand people - 70 per cent of them Ivorian - have crossed into Mali, while there are fears that many of the estimated three million Burkina residents in Côte d'Ivoire may attempt to return home, triggering food and health emergencies.

"This situation has already caused around one million people to be displaced. Potentially, it could evolve into an extremely serious long-term crisis within the sub-region," says Eric Michel-Sellier, head of the International Federation's regional delegation in Abidjan.

"It is our duty to ensure that we support Red Cross Societies as they prepare for this eventuality," he adds.

Last month, the International Federation launched an appeal for 1.3 million Swiss francs (US$886,000) to help the Red Cross societies in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger to cope with the influx by providing them with relief items like tents, blankets, drinking water, food and hygiene articles.

For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Abidjan:
Tope Akinwande, Regional Information Officer - Tel: +225 07 98 97 01 / +225 22 40 44 50 or 66

In Geneva:
Roy Probert, Press Officer - Tel: + 41 22 730 42 96 / + 41 79 217 33 86
Media Service Duty Phone - Tel: + 41 79 416 38 81

The Geneva-based International Federation promotes the humanitarian activities of 178 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies among vulnerable people. By coordinating international disaster relief and encouraging development support, it seeks to prevent and alleviate human suffering. The Federation, National Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross together, constitute the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.