French Ambassador to Côte d'Ivoire Mr. Gildas Le Lidec traveled on Wednesday 8 January to the western town of Duékoué, 484 kilometres northwest of Abidjan, to meet with MPIGO (Movement Populaire Ivoirien du Grand Ouest) and MPJ (Movement pour la Paix et la Justice) rebel leaders following a serious clash outside the town on Monday 6 January that left 30 rebels dead and nine French soldiers wounded. As a result of the meeting, both groups agreed to a cease-fire with French troops. IRIN reports that on 13 January, MPIGO and MPJ signed a cease-fire agreement with the government of Côte d'Ivoire in Lomé, Togo.
Lieutenant-Colonel Ange-Antoine Leccia, spokesman for the French armed forces in Côte d'Ivoire confirmed that an attack on the village of Grabo, along the border with Liberia, by loyalist forces did take place on Thursday 9 January. French forces could not verify accounts of 15 civilian casualties and report that the town is currently under MPIGO control, and that the situation is calm. The spokesman further confirmed that all helicopters of the Government forces are currently grounded in Abidjan as of Saturday 11 January.
A spokesman from the French Embassy in Abidjan confirmed on Saturday 11 January that all three rebel movements in Côte d'Ivoire, MPCI (Movement Patriotique de la Côte d'Ivoire) in the north, MPIGO and MJP in the west, as well as the four major political parties, PDCI (Parti Démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire), FPI Front Populaire Ivoirien), UDPCI (Union pour la Democratie et pour la Paix en Côte d'Ivoire) and RDR (Rassemblement des Republicains), and all smaller parties currently holding seats in the National Assembly have confirmed their intention to participate in the round table meetings to be held in Paris from 15 January. The political round table will be followed by a summit of African Heads of State, also in Paris, which will be attended by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Some 50 ECOWAS troops from Benin, Niger, Ghana, and Togo arrived in Abidjan on 3 January, but the rest of the 1,264-strong force has yet to arrive. The troops are to monitor the cease-fire between Government and rebel forces.
The UN retains phase IV in the whole of the western and northern regions of the country, delineated by a line that runs roughly from San Pedro on the coast, northwards to Guiglo and Duékoué, and eastwards to Daloa, Bouaflé, Tiébissou, Mbahiakro and Bondoukou. The remainder of Côte d'Ivoire remains at phase III.
Since 25 December, IOM convoys have repatriated a total of 583 nationals from Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal.
ICRC reports that over 1,000 Liberian refugee children have become separated from their families as a result of the fighting in western Côte d'Ivoire. Working with the Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNRCS), the ICRC has registered and photographed these children in the hope of finding their parents or families in Liberia. Hundreds of such pictures are now displayed on large posters in 115 places in Liberia.
UNHCR reports that Liberians, Ivorians and small numbers of citizens of other nationalities continue crossing the borders into Liberia. As of 10 January 2003, UNHCR has registered over 53,000 arrivals in Liberia (including 33,000 Liberians and 20,000 Ivorians) since the conflict spread to the west of Côte d'Ivoire in mid-November.
The main humanitarian concerns in Côte d'Ivoire remain an acute lack of functioning medical facilities in the rebel-held north and western areas of the country, and a general lack of medical supplies necessary to provide assistance to displaced and vulnerable populations throughout the entire country. Due to the extremely fluid movements of displaced populations and the fact that a majority of them have found shelter with hosts, it is proving difficult to pinpoint their locations and needs.
In a press conference held in Abidjan on Thursday 9 January, Gemmo Lodesani, WFP Emergency Coordinator, called the situation in Côte d'Ivoire "explosive". He urged the international community to act quickly to prevent the situation from further deteriorating, and to avert the humanitarian disaster that hit Liberia and Sierra Leone during their own wars.
Due to increasing rebel activity in the southwestern area of Côte d'Ivoire close to the Liberian border, the number of IDPs arriving in and transiting through the coastal town of Grand Bérébi and the major port city of San Pedro has climbed into the thousands. An inter-agency UN mission to assess the humanitarian situation in San Pedro and the coastal town of Tabou, about 80 kilometers further west and some 20 kilometers from the Liberian border is being organised. Tabou has, by some accounts, become a ghost town. The mission is scheduled to depart Abidjan Tuesday 14 January: OCHA, UNICEF, WFP and UNHCR will participate (UNHCR has a presence in San Pedro).
UNHCR remains extremely concerned about the security of tens of thousands of refugees, mostly Liberians, in the western part of the country. New attacks on Monday 6 January on French positions, and recently in Grabo, brought the hostilities closer to the camp of Nicla, UNHCR's only refugee camp in the country. Nicla initially had a population of about 5,000 refugees who were considered particularly vulnerable because of their ethnicity.
In a note verbale to the Ivorian government dated 9 January 2003, UNHCR urged authorities to stop recruiting refugees into the ranks of loyalist forces, and to instruct Ivorian youth groups controlling numerous checkpoints to allow passage to Liberians fleeing the conflict. They also called on Ivorians to stop viewing all Liberians as rebels.
UNHCR reiterates that it is imperative to move the entire refugee population remaining in the conflict area, estimated at between 50 - 60,000, to a safer location. The office in Abidjan last week again asked Ivorian authorities to urgently identify a site for the temporary relocation of Liberian refugees who are still trapped in the conflict zone in the west of the country. It has also renewed its request to four countries in the West Africa region to accept a number of Liberians on a temporary asylum basis.
As the humanitarian situation on the ground continues to worsen, the threat of epidemics is rising. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports an outbreak of 70 cases of cholera in south-central Côte d'Ivoire from 22 December through 5 January, including 15 deaths. Control measures are in place, and appropriate medication is available, they report. Measles, yellow fever and meningitis are also of concern. Polio vaccination campaigns are thwarted by the division of the country as well as by the rapidly moving, large numbers of IDPs. Press reports indicate that a large number of displaced, especially women and children, are contracting malaria. The Ivorian Red Cross in San Pedro has also indicated the threat of epidemics among IDP children there. The health sector, particularly in rebel-held zones in the north and west, is experiencing a severe lack of medicines and health services.
According to a UNICEF assessment, 70,800 persons, 30% female and 40% children, will require non-food item assistance in Côte d'Ivoire in the first trimester of 2003.
The Ivorian government's Cellule Solidarité et Action Humanitaire, presided over by the Ministry of Solidarity, Health and Social Welfare, and in collaboration with the prefectural Comités de Crise (Crisis Committees) has been active in the mobilisation and transportion of humanitarian aid supplies to Government-controlled areas. From 30 September through 30 December 2002 they report the organization of eight convoys of medical supplies, food and non-food items to IDP populations in cities and towns, and their environs, including Daloa, Zénoula, Zoukougbeu, Zahibo, Issia, Man, Kouibli, Bloléquin, Guiglo and Siémian. They report that as of 8 January 2003, approximately 5,683 IDPs have received medical attention in central Abidjan and in peripheral zones of the city. Over 50% of the beneficiaries have been women. They further report that there are currently 40,250 persons registered in IDP reception centres in Abidjan, the number having grown from 25,000 in December, and 28,199 in November of 2002.
ICRC reports that the hospital in the rebel-held city of Man is still not functioning, and that they are making efforts to reopen it, in consultation with the Government. The ICRC team in Man has provided medical attention to 2,500 persons since hostilities began in the region in mid-November. They also conducted a mission to the western city of Danané, which is under the control of MPIGO forces, during the week 6-10 January 2003. They report that the hospital is functioning and treating wounded civilians and fighters. ICRC provided the hospital in Danané with an emergency medical kit (basic medical supplies to treat 2,000 people for 3 months). In San Pedro, ICRC reports that the local Red Cross is providing 500 hot meals per day for IDPs in transit, and organizing onward transport.
Medecins du Monde (MDM) has aided in the reopening on 21 December 2002 of the hospital in the town of Séguéla, some 592 kilometers northwest of Abidjan in MPCI-controlled territory. They are present there with international staff, including a surgeon, an anaesthetist, and a medical coordinator, and also support four medical centers in the district of Séguéla. They report a lack of medical supplies.
WFP has opened offices in Yamoussoukro, the nation's official administrative capital, as well as in Bouaké and Korhogo. In the Daloa area, distributions of WFP emergency food rations continued in the district of Bonoufla with some 1,846 out of a planned 4,000 IDPs having been served. Planned distributions to an estimated 1,750 IDPs in Zoukougbeu have been postponed in order to allow further assessments. Rehabilitation activities with MSF-F for the new IDP reception camp has started in Daloa. WFP is assessing the possibility of implementing Food-For-Work activities for the displaced there.
A joint WFP/CARE mission was undertaken during 2 and 3 January 2003 to the villages of Didiévi, Mbahiakro, Prikro and Bocanda, northeast of Yamoussoukro to verify IDP registers and evaluate the level of vulnerability and primary needs. According to the mission, the total estimated IDP caseload in this area amounts to 21,000.
CARE has started registration of 5,500 IDPs in two districts (Molonou and TiéNdiékro) located in the cease-fire zone, and plans to proceed with registration in Didiévi, N'da-Akissikro, Boli and Kouassi-Kouassikro.
The Catholic mission in Bouaké is receiving 40 persons daily in their transit center at the cathedral. A WFP/CARE Food-For-Work garbage disposal programme was scheduled to begin on 8 January in Bouaké. Twenty-six metric tones of rice was delivered to ICRC for their January assistance to vulnerable persons to cover their needs in Bouaké and Korhogo.
UNICEF has received 170,000 doses of anti-polio vaccine for children in rebel-held zones. They are also constructing latrines, carrying out insect and rodent disinfestion, and preparing a hygiene sensibilisation campaign in IDP reception centers in Abidjan.
The Revisited UN Flash Appeal for Côte d'Ivoire covering urgent humanitarian interventions for the period from January to March of 2003 was distributed to donors on 3 January 2003. The appeal total is US$19,896,333.
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