Côte d'Ivoire

Approaching rains threaten children's health

News and Press Release
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Thousands of children and families forced from their homes by ongoing fighting are at risk of potentially deadly diseases living in crowded camps without shelter or healthcare as the rainy season approaches. Help us reach them by supporting our appeal.

Five months after the disputed election that plunged the Ivory Coast into conflict, families who fled their homes to escape the fighting are still living and sleeping out in the open. They lack access to clean drinking water and healthcare, leaving them at high risk of disease.

“We have no house,” said Celestine, a mother of three living in a displacement camp in Duekoué, in the west of the country. “The rain comes and we’re sleeping outside. If it rains, it wakes you up and you can’t sleep. People have stomach infections, sicknesses... We can’t live like this.”

Healthcare supplies are also running dangerously low in the country as health centres and pharmacies have been looted. We have sent planes stocked with life-saving shelter, medical supplies and equipment into the west of the country where 27,000 people are living in squalid camps following the recent violence.

No clean water or shelter “Conditions in these camps are already atrocious, and will only get worse as the rainy season sets in,” said Annie Bodmer-Roy, Save the Children’s spokesperson in Man, western Ivory Coast. “Without clean water, proper shelter and access to healthcare, children in these camps could find themselves caught in a breeding ground for disease, and the potential consequences are catastrophic.”

Experts predict that the onset of the rainy season could prompt a sharp increase in diseases including acute diarrhoea, malaria and respiratory infections. Camps have already been hit by heavy rains, and residents have noticed an increase in sickness, as the meagre sources of water available in the camps often aren’t treated. Diarrhoea has already claimed the lives of several people, including children.

Save the Children, together with Britain’s Department for International Development, has chartered an emergency cargo plane to deliver urgently needed shelter items to Ivory Coast, including plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, buckets and water purification tablets. Save the Children will be handing out these basic supplies to 5,000 families as soon as possible to help prevent the spread of disease.

Medical supplies have been looted "Children living in camp conditions are incredibly vulnerable and the situation for those in need of medical care is appalling," said Michelle Brown, Save the Children's emergency advisor.

"Our assessment team found clinics completely stripped of medical supplies — no medicines, vaccines or refrigerators. It's crucial we get more medical supplies into the country so health workers can begin treating families again. We also know sexual violence has been an issue in the Ivory Coast before, and women fleeing violence are at high risk. We need to have drugs in place to help women and girls who have survived this, and provide counselling to limit the long-term damage to those affected," Brown continued.

Pregnant women at risk of infection We are particularly concerned about the health of pregnant women, and are flying in safe delivery kits including soap and gloves, to reduce the chance of infection after birth.

Christine, who was heavily pregnant when she fled to find safety from the fighting, gave birth in a makeshift clinic with no clean water or medicine to help her. "I didn’t have any food and I had to hide in the bush - I fell down many times. I came to the maternity clinic and gave birth to a girl, and 35 minutes later I gave birth to a boy. I lost a lot of liquids and both my babies died. It's not my fault I lost them — I lost them because of the war."

What we're doing

  • We've sent medical supplies for 40,000 people to treat diseases such as malaria and to provide much-needed help for pregnant women and new mums
  • Working with the UK’s Department for International Development we’ve chartered an emergency cargo plane loaded with basic shelter supplies for 5,000 people
  • We have distributed food to 22,000 people, and given out 2,000 packets of soap to help families keep clean and healthy in Duékoué and household kits, sleeping mats, child-sized blankets and buckets to help families who have been forced from their homes
  • We’re working to keep children together with their families by educating families on the importance of keeping their children with them when on the move. We also protect children who have become separated from their parents, by placing them with foster families and we're helping to trace their parents so they can be reunified
  • We have set up safe spaces for children in Liberian refugee camps where they can play safely with their friends.