Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d'Ivoire: UN agencies to set up civil-military cell

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ABIDJAN, 8 January (IRIN) - United Nations agencies in Cote d'Ivoire's commercial capital, Abidjan, will "as soon as funds are available" set up a civil-military cell in the city.
The World Food Programme (WFP) was therefore appealing to donors for US $99,000 to cover the operational costs for a period of six months, a source from WFP told IRIN on Wednesday.

The new structure, supported by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and WFP on behalf of all UN agencies was to ensure continuing access to victims of the civil unrest in the country and secure humanitarian corridors and repatriation routes for refugees and displaced people.

The source said the coordination mechanism will maintain regular contacts with different military forces operating in the country to facilitate the delivery of life-saving supplies to those in need of humanitarian assistance in areas controlled by the government as well as in the north, centre and west of the country which have been taken over by rebels.

According to the source, it will also conduct training programmes to improve the understanding of different military players in the country of the role and mandate of humanitarian organisations.

The Ministry of Defence would set up a coordination mechanism in Abidjan where all relevant partners would be represented to guarantee a participatory and transparent process, he said.

A similar structure was to be established in areas held by insurgents where civil populations were in need of humanitarian assistance, the source added.

The ongoing crisis in the country has forced some 400,000 people to flee the central and northern regions towards the south, while an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 people have fled the western town of Man and sought refuge in towns like Daloa, Duekoue, Bouafle, Issia and others in the western region, he said.

In addition he noted, some 140,000 mainly west African migrants workers had crossed the border into Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Mali.

Meanwhile, the International Federation of the Red Cross on Tuesday said many west African refugees of whom 70 percent are Ivorians were stuck in Mali's Loulouni camp under "terrible" humanitarian and weather conditions.

Like many other parts of Mali, Loulouni is an arid land with temperatures frequently rising as high as 40 degrees Celsius. It noted that with the dry, cold harmattan season reaching its peak in December and January many refugees are suffering from malaria and respiratory diseases, made worse by the village's poor health and sanitary system and lack of electricity.

Health officials pass by once a week and locals have to travel 60 km to Sikasso when they require serious medical treatment.

"Though these refugees are from West Africa, the majority of them are not used to the harsh conditions they have found in this camp," it quoted Souleymane Sanago the manager of the Loulouni camp as saying. Two refugees have already died and a third is dying of AIDS, he noted.

"The only health personnel in the camp are nurses from the Red Cross and they can't handle all the cases", he added. "We need people to come to our aid as soon as possible."

Apart from the Red Cross, other humanitarian agencies such as UNICEF, the Islamic Relief Agency and Medecin Sans Frontieres have been assisting the refugees and returnees, it added.

In a related development, United States President George Bush on Tuesday announced that he had authorised the US Emergency and Migration Assistance Fund to help refugees in four sub-Saharan countries to migrate or otherwise provide for their security needs.

In a statement from the office of the press secretary, Bush said he has determined that "it is important to the national interest that up to $11 million be made available [...] to address unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs arising from the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia and from the return of refugees to Sierra Leone and Angola".

The funds may be used as appropriate to provide contributions to international, governmental and nongovernmental organisations, the statement added.

[ENDS]

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