Côte d'Ivoire + 1 more

Press Conference on Côte d’Ivoire by Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator

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Côte d’Ivoire needed $173 million in humanitarian aid for the millions of people still struggling to survive since post-election violence rocked the West African nation in late 2010, a senior United Nations relief official said this afternoon.

“Now is not the time for the international community, nor the Government, to turn their attention away from the needs of a still sizeable population, who individually, each one of them, has endured hardship and insecurity for too long,” Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, told reporters during a Headquarters news conference.

Nine months after the end of the bloody post-election fighting, upwards of 2 million civilians remained displaced, homeless, unable to cultivate their fields, and without access to food, potable water and other basic necessities, she said.

Addressing their needs was vital for reconstruction and development and a “historic opportunity” that the international community could not afford to miss, she said, calling on all partners to make 2012 the year that the humanitarian crisis in Côte d’Ivoire was brought to an end.

During a three-day visit last week to Côte d’Ivoire, Ms. Bragg launched, in Abidjan, the nation’s commercial and banking centre, an international appeal for donor aid in 2012, particularly for vulnerable regions in the west and southwest. To kick-start the relief effort, last week the Organization’s Central Emergency Response Fund allocated $8 million.

The money would fund several key priorities, she said. They included the safe, voluntary return and reintegration of 186,000 internally displaced persons and 161,000 Ivorian refugees in neighbouring countries, protection of civilians, construction of 17,000 homes, rehabilitation of more than 170 schools and more than 100 health centres, delivery of basic services to vulnerable populations, and restoration of livelihoods. Some 500,000 internally displaced persons and refugees have already returned home.

During her mission, Ms. Bragg visited displacement camps in the west. She met with some of the more than 4,500 people still living in the Nahibly camp, where there was no electricity for lighting and where potable water must be trucked in. “Yet people told me they were ready to go home and start rebuilding their lives, but that the conditions were not yet in place,” she said.

Asked what concrete steps the United Nations was taking to attract more donor aid, Ms. Bragg said that, in addition to the $8 million it announced last week, the Central Emergency Response Fund had issued a “sizeable contribution” for Côte d’Ivoire last year. In July, the Organization would monitor whether the funds were received.

She said she briefed donors on Côte d’Ivoire’s needs at the end of her mission and would meet with donors in New York in the next few days. In addition, the Organization’s country team in Abidjan had been “very diligent in ensuring that the situation did not fall off the international radar screen”.

As to whether she had witnessed difficulties in achieving reconciliation between supporters of current Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara and backers of the former President, Laurent Gbagbo, and whether such tension was hindering aid delivery to the latter, she said she had not seen any such tense situations. But she was quick to add that greater efforts to achieve reconciliation and social cohesion were a pre-requisite for successfully bringing all internally displaced persons and refugees home and that she had raised that issue with six Government Ministers during her mission.

On Sudan, a reporter asked about discussions to set up an aid operation for the Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ involvement in that matter. She said many discussions had taken and were taking place and that the Office favoured working with the Government in the creation of cross-line operations in Sudan itself, over proposals to set up a cross-border operation.

She said it was crucial for the international community to be able to bring aid to all civilians in both States, particularly those caught between the two parties to the conflict and in areas controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Asked whether humanitarian workers could in fact access areas controlled by the SPLM and SPLM-North, she said national staff of various agencies had already gained entry, but United Nations staff had not, thus far.

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