WESTPORT, Conn. (April 4, 2011) — As fighting continues in Ivory Coast's main city of Abidjan, Save the Children has launched a major appeal to assist hundreds of thousands of needy children and their families across the country.
As the humanitarian crisis grows, Save the Children's $40 million appeal will support its response in Ivory Coast and Liberia to meet the needs of 650,000 people affected by the crisis. The latest figures suggest around 130,000 Ivoirians have fled to Liberia. Some 60 percent of the refugees are thought to be children.
"Children are being exposed to this violence; they have been hearing gunshots for days, explosions as well," said a Save the Children worker in Abidjan. "It's an extremely stressful and frightening situation for them."
The violence is preventing families across the city from buying food. "Families need food, the markets are closed, peoples' household stocks are being used up, and nobody is leaving their houses," said the Save the Children employee.
As tensions mount, Save the Children is concerned about children potentially being targeted because of their parents' perceived political views or their families' ethnicity. As reports of intercommunal violence in the town of Duékoué emerge, we are increasingly concerned about children suffering as a result of these clashes.
In Duékoué, where food and water are in short supply, Save the Children was the first organization to provide food to the displaced. On April 3rd, we distributed rice, oil and tuna, which was enough food for 20,000 people for one day. Save the Children is working closely with partners on the ground in western Ivory Coast to coordinate aid distributions.
Hundreds of thousands of children have fled their homes in Ivory Coast for neighboring Liberia. During their trek, some have become separated from their parents and family members. Save the Children has begun distributing clothes and other basic items to refugee children and their families in eastern Liberia.
"I was at school when we heard gunshots," said a 14-year-old Ivorian now in Liberia. "Everyone left the school and ran home quickly. I picked up my two little sisters and brother and decided to go to the farm to look for my parents, but everybody was running around everywhere, and we got lost. I couldn't find our parents. We followed some people we didn't know. We spent that night sleeping in the forest; there were lots of children crying. I still don't know what happened to my parents."
Save the Children has been working in Ivory Coast since 1996 and working in Liberia since 1991.