Côte d'Ivoire

Clean drinking water for five million people

News and Press Release
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Geneva/Abidjan (ICRC) – Within the next few days, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will bring in to Côte d'Ivoire chemicals needed to treat the water that will be distributed to five million people for the next six months. "Supplying the population with potable water remains a major challenge," said Ione Ramel, ICRC deputy head of operations for North and West Africa. "The major crisis that swept the country has severely restricted the local production of drinking water. This poses serious risks for millions of Ivorians."

An ICRC-chartered ship loaded with 4,000 tonnes of lime (calcium oxide) left the English port of Ellesmere in the night of 20 to 21 April. "Lime is indispensable to purify the water in Abidjan, since the groundwater is not safe to drink," said Mr Ramel. "When the measures imposed on Côte d'Ivoire by the European Union over the past few months were at their strictest, the country's water board alerted us that its stocks were running down and that it had no way of importing lime."

Those measures have since been lifted. Nevertheless, Ivorians still urgently need to obtain adequate quantities of the chemical compound as soon as possible. The ICRC shipment should arrive in Abidjan at the beginning of May.

According to Mr Ramel, "95 per cent of the lime we are bringing in will be used in the water treatment plants that supply the five million people living in Abidjan." The ICRC stands ready to escort trucks from Côte d'Ivoire's water board if needed, especially in areas where the security situation remains tenuous. The organization already provided such support in March in violence-stricken parts of Abidjan.

The water board is in the process of assessing damage sustained by the water supply system during the conflict. In view of the looting that took place, it is checking in particular on the condition of water treatment plants and stocks of spare parts. "The ICRC will take action in accordance with the assessment results," said Mr Ramel.

For further information, please contact: Kelnor Panglungtshang, ICRC Abidjan, tel: +225 09 399 404