Red Cross officials along with three doctors and a nurse from the Institut National d'Hygiene (National Health Institute) who were dispatched to the town feared that typhoid fever, meningitis and cholera might break out among the children.
Aba told IRIN by telephone from San Pedro, 368 km southwest of Abidjan,that the risk of epidemics was real because there were not enough vaccines for the 319 children aged, who are between two months and nine years. This had led local medical and administrative authorities to carry out vaccinations with the minimum stock at their disposal, the Red Cross said.
The Red Cross had so far registered 1089 displaced persons, including 286 who were taken to host families. Humanitarian sources said the town's cultural center, a transit site, was not appropriate for accommodating the displaced.
The Red Cross also said there was a dire shortage of basic medical supplies and vehicles for transporting the displaced children, but that some private individuals and groups had provided it with vehicles and about FCFA 500,000 (over US $750) to feed the children.
IDPs said many children had died and many people, including three pregnant women and three babies, had sustained severe injuries while fleeing fighting between rebels and loyalist forces. Four men had been evacuated to a hospital in Abidjan, they said.
In a briefing on Thursday, the World Food Programme (WFP) - which appealed for US $6.6 million in November - said it had enough food to assist those affected by the conflict until at least March.
According to WFP Emergency Coordinator Gemmo Lodesani, the Ivorian crisis was an "explosive situation" because of its consequences for the entire region. It had already taken a significant toll on Cote d'Ivoire and its neighbours, and the international community needed to act quickly to prevent the situation from deteriorating and to avert the humanitarian disaster that hit Liberia and Sierra Leone during their own wars, Lodesani said.
WFP has opened offices in Yamoussoukro, the capital, and Bouake and Korhogo, rebel-held towns in the center and north respectively. It was contemplating opening another office in western Cote d'Ivoire.
So far, WFP has received 30 percent of the resources.
In the short term the agency plans to assist some 123,000 people with emergency food rations in northern, central and western Cote d'Ivoire during January and February.
Meanwhile, the two rebel movements operating in western Cote d'Ivoire, the Justice and Peace Movement (MJP) and the Ivorian Popular Movement for the Great West (MPIGO) have agreed to a ceasefire with French troops stationed in the area.
The verbal agreement was made at a meeting between the two groups and French Ambassador Gildas Le Lidec, who also invited them to a round-table between the various Ivorian political and military actors, scheduled for 15 January in Paris.
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