Côte d'Ivoire

Secretary-General's Humanitarian Envoy meets with President of Cote d'Ivoire

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(United Nations: 23 January 2003) Carolyn McAskie, the Secretary-General's Humanitarian Envoy for the Crisis in Cote d'Ivoire, voiced her concern over the humanitarian situation in Cote d'Ivoire in a meeting in Abidjan yesterday with that country's President, Mr. Laurent Gbago and his wife.
Ms. McAskie expressed her concern about the lack of public services in rebel-held areas, especially in the health and education sectors. Humanitarian needs in the health sector are growing. Medicines, medical equipment and the retention of medical staff in and around the war zones remain in a critical state despite the efforts of medical organizations. Many medical personnel have stopped attending clinics in rebel-controlled areas, and hospitals are thus depleted of supplies and of staff. The education sector is also experiencing conflict-related difficulties. School age children in rebel-held areas are unable to attend school: there are no funds arriving to run the schools and most schools are closed. The government is making provisions for a second school year to start this month, which would allow displaced children in government-held areas to attend school. Only a fraction of eligible children, however, are expected to be enrolled in the programme.

Ms. McAskie also underlined the need to protect civilians caught in armed conflict. Nearly one million Ivorians have been displaced from their homes since fighting began in September 2002 and there have been reports of violence against civilian populations. She reminded the President of the need to protect all civilians, regardless of their location. She also stressed the need to ensure the safety-- even in the midst of a conflict---of Liberian refugees staying Cote d'Ivoire.

The Secretary-General's Humanitarian Envoy also asked President Gbago to ensure that his 8 October declaration that no more shantytowns would be destroyed was respected. This declaration is particularly important after threats that a shantytown in Abidjan would be destroyed were made by a group of armed men on 20 January.

Finally, Ms. McAskie asked the President to ensure respect for the safety of humanitarian personnel bringing aid to vulnerable populations in Cote d'Ivoire.

Ms. McAskie, the United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, was named the Secretary-General's humanitarian Envoy for the Crisis in Cote d'Ivoire on 17 December. She arrived in Abidjan in Cote d'Ivoire and will remain in the region four three to four weeks. During her mission, she will focus on raising awareness and understanding of the growing complexity of the humanitarian situation in Cote d'Ivoire and its implications for the sub-region. The Humanitarian Envoy will assess the nature and scale of the humanitarian crisis, review coordination and preparedness structures, and recommend immediate measures necessary to avert a humanitarian disaster. In meetings with officials she will stress the need to respect humanitarian principles and to protect civilians caught in armed conflict.

For further information, please contact
Abidjan: Jeff Brez, tel. 225 2240 4442

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