Against the backdrop of continuing security concerns, IOM has started to provide return assistance to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in western Cote d'Ivoire.
An initial group of some 45,000 will be assisted over the next month to return to their villages and communities in the western towns of Zouen Hounien, Bin-Houyé and Blolequin. This group is part of the estimated 150,000 persons who were displaced by recent post-election violence in the west of the country and were identified in a recent joint assessment mission carried out by IOM, UNHCR, OCHA and United Nations Evaluation and Coordination Team, UNDAC.
IOM staff on the ground in the region say that although security has returned to some areas in the west of the country, many IDPs are still reluctant to return to their villages and plantations, fearing reprisal attacks from armed groups.
"Many areas are still only accessible under armed escort which represents serious challenges to humanitarian workers," says Jacques Seurt, IOM's Chief of Mission in Cote d'Ivoire.
Working jointly with UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF and other local and international organizations, IOM will provide transportation and pre-departure health checks.
IOM staff will also accompany the returnees to ensure their safe arrival at their final destinations. Due to the onset of the rainy season, IOM is now identifying suitable routes for light-weight trucks that will take the returnees home.
The first movement is scheduled to take place later this week and will involve about 800 IDPs from two sites near Zouan-Hounien and Bin-Houyé.
However, most of the 27,000 IDPs who have been sheltering in the Catholic mission in Duékoué refuse to return to their villages in fear for their lives or because their homes have been taken over by those who chased them away.
Despite increased humanitarian assistance, the vast majority of the displaced in Duékoué continue to live in extremely overcrowded conditions, with many women and children living in the open air.
Working with the local authorities, IOM has identified land and is in the process of establishing a new camp to ease the congestion at the Catholic mission as well as hiring more local staff to provide additional assistance to the displaced.
"Every day reveals more needs, especially among those people trickling out of forests where they had been," says IOM's Jacques Seurt. "Although we're seeing some limited returns, the vast majority of the displaced will require sustained assistance over the coming weeks and months. IOM will support all reconciliation efforts that are crucial to sustainable returns."
Meanwhile, in Ghana, IOM staff say there has been a decrease in the numbers of people fleeing Cote d'Ivoire in the past week. At its peak, between 12th to 26th April, more than 130 people were crossing into Ghana every day, mostly young people coming from Abidjan's neighbourhoods of Youpougon and Abobo, said to be pro-Gbagbo areas.
At the Eagle Star Transit Centre located in the border area of Elubo border town, IOM has over the past week registered 913 persons who have crossed from Cote d'Ivoire to seek safety. The camp, which was designed to accommodate up to 400 people is currently hosting 700 people crammed inside a few makeshift structures. This is putting a severe strain on water and sanitation facilities.
As of 26 April, more than 320,000 people have crossed into neighbouring countries to escape post-electoral violence. This includes some 150,000 Ivoirians who have crossed into Liberia.
IOM had appealed for US$ 41.6 million to provide urgently needed aid to thousands escaping the violence in Côte d'Ivoire and to avert a looming humanitarian catastrophe.
To date, the Organization has received US$ 1.8 million from the US government's Bureau of Population Refugee and Migration (PRM), the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund and from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
For more information please contact please contact Jean Philippe Chauzy, IOM Geneva, Tel: + 41 22 717 9361/+ 41 79 285 4366 Email: email@example.com