McAskie, who was named Humanitarian Envoy last month, begun her mission in the Ivorian economic capital Abidjan by participating in the fortnightly humanitarian press briefing organised by the UN system in the troubled West African country. In her statement, McAskie highlighted the importance of Cote d'Ivoire as the "cornerstone" of the region and the need to find solutions to mitigate the already-regional consequences of the crisis. The crisis broke out on 17 September 2002 when armed men launched simultaneous attacks on Abidjan and the towns of Bouake and Korhogo. She also told the press that the UN was closely following the situation and was directing all its efforts towards a speedy resolution of the crisis.
In the afternoon, she met with the Ivorian minister of Construction and Housing, Raymond Abouo-Ndori, with whom they discussed the situation of shantytowns. Several shantytowns have been destroyed in Abidjan in the aftermath of the attack on the city as military authorities searched for armed assailants. The government had said the towns had been used as hideouts for some of the assailants.
Her speech was followed by updates by UN agencies that have been operating in the country. According to Besida Tonwe, head of the UN's Regional Support Office for West Africa, some 25,000 Ivorians had fled to neighbouring countries in addition to a larger number of foreign nationals. Tonwe cited health, food security and education as constituting the main three concerns of the United Nations. In that regard, the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme and UNICEF painted each a worrisome situation and elaborated on their current activities. While the food security situation was not disastrous, the health situation was more troublesome, causing a perverse dual effect. While health facilities in areas occupied by rebels were malfunctioning due to a lack of medical staff and equipment, those in government-controlled areas were overbooked due to the large influx of displaced populations towards these towns, Mame Thierno Abi Sy, head of WHO, told the audience.
UNAIDS described as "critical" the situation of HIV positive persons, especially those infected in the hinterland who, because of the volatile security situation, could no longer travel to Abidjan as usual to receive the necessary drugs. A senior official of UNAIDS, Mamoudou Diallo, announced that the agency was expecting shortly a favourable response from a donor to finance a HIV/AIDS project.
Presently, UN agencies have opened nine offices in the hinterland to better monitor the situation. In addition, an inter-agency meeting is currently taking place in southwestern Cote d'Ivoire.
In addition to Abidjan and a few key Ivorian towns, McAskie is expected to travel to neighbouring countries to take stock of the humanitarian situation.
Tel: +225 22-40-4440
Fax: +225 22-41-9339
[This Item is Delivered to the "Africa-English" Service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: Irin@ocha.unon.org or Web: http://www.irinnews.org . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by commercial sites requires written IRIN permission.]
Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2003