Côte d'Ivoire

Protecting Civilians: Key Priority in Cote d'Ivoire

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(Abidjan, 3 April 2011): Côte d'Ivoire is in the midst of a serious crisis with disastrous humanitarian consequences. The fighting over the past few days has jeopardized the security of people living in Abidjan and in the western and central region, where massacres have been reported. Hundreds of people have been killed in the western towns of Duékoué and Guiglo, while preliminary reports indicate killings may have been committed in other areas.

In the economic capital Abidjan, the fighting has led to widespread insecurity, preventing civilians from finding refuge in safer areas, preventing the distribution of humanitarian aid that had been ongoing for 90,000 people, and rendering quasi-impossible for the time being the delivery of aid.

"Serious human rights violations have been committed. The protection of civilians is an urgent priority. United Nations agencies and NGOs call on the parties to the conflict to do their utmost to prevent new violence, respect international humanitarian law, protect civilians and allow humanitarian access to aid agencies to reach those in distress," said the Humanitarian Coordinator in Côte d'Ivoire, Ndolamb Ngokwey.

The provision of basic social services has been suspended in many parts of the country. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, over 500,000 people have fled Abidjan in the past few days. In Duékoué and other western towns, people have fled for safety to the surrounding forests, or have sought shelter in sites or with host families already affected by the ongoing crisis.

More than 30,000 people are living in two IDP sites in Duékoué. Numerous corpses are strewn throughout the city's streets. An estimated 250 displaced children are living in the forests, and soldiers from the peacekeeping mission are trying to reach them. Some 10,000 people who fled the town of Péhé and its surroundings have lost everything they own.

The affected people, mainly women and children, are in dire need of food, non-food items, shelter, health and sanitation services, among other things, which aid agencies have started distributing, while the identification of new sites for displaced people is underway.

"We are facing a serious humanitarian crisis with daunting protection challenges. We are ready to assist--but we cannot do so amidst flying bullets and in the absence of law and order. We call on the parties to observe a cease fire to preserve human lives and allow us to start assisting the civilian population," Mr. Ngokwey said today in Abidjan.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.