Côte d'Ivoire

SOS Children's Villages in Côte d'Ivoire prepares itself for the worst

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Increasing instability in Côte d'Ivoire is forcing the local SOS Children's Village Association to take measures against the situation deteriorating. Preparations are also being made for the possible evacuation of children and co-workers from the SOS Children's Village Abobo-Gare, near Abidjan.
The civil war, which has been raging since September 2002 in the west African republic, is now also leading to a critical state of affairs in Abidjan, an important economic centre. Opponents to the peace agreement between the government and rebel elements - negotiated in France in February and whose content was not fully agreed to by President Laurent Gbagbo - are giving vent to their anger in the streets of Abidjan. Protest rallies by supporters of the government and violent incursions are daily occurrences. Rebel groups are threatening an advance on Abidjan unless President Gbagbo agree to the requirements of the peace agreement. It is impossible to see how the situation might develop in the near future.

As we were told on Wednesday by the director of SOS Children's Villages in Côte d'Ivoire, Clotilde Kouedan-Abauleth, all the schools and kindergartens in both Abobo Gare (15 km outside of Abidjan) and Aboisso stayed closed for several days. The SOS Children's Village schooling facilities in both these places were also forced to close their doors temporarily, but have since gone back into operation. Nonetheless, parents are being urged to collect their children from the schools and kindergartens, in case the unrest in the town were to escalate.

The co-workers of SOS Children's Villages are preparing themselves in the meantime for the worst. Focus is being put on the SOS Children's Village Abobo-Gare, which is situated in a Muslim quarter and which could be badly affected by the trouble, were it to intensify. Food supplies and water reserves are being put down, all important documents gathered together and medicine bought. So far, life in the SOS Children's Village facilities has not been directly affected by the disturbances, only the rise in the price of everyday goods has been noticeable. Protest marches mean the markets are still closed, while whole branches of the economy have been paralysed by the unrest.

Were there to be, as many fear, a dramatic intensification of the situation, above all in and around Abidjan, then all children and co-workers would be evacuated to Aboisso, which lies close to the border with Ghana. In case of the whole country being consumed by the civil war, a total evacuation to Ghana would be possible. SOS Children's Village co-workers have already established contact with all the important aid organisations on the ground, including the local representation of UNICEF and the Red Cross and will now be able to call upon their help if and when it is needed.

SOS Children's Village Abobo-Gare was the first village to be founded in Africa. More than thirty years ago, the village with twelve family houses evolved out of a project to help orphans initiated by French priest "Father Martin". Since then, a kindergarten, primary school and a youth facility have been added to the village. In 1980 the SOS Children's Village co-workers in Côte d'Ivoire became aware of an unusual social problem among the people from the Aboisso region in the south-east of the country. According to a local custom, every tenth child is seen as a bringer of bad luck and expelled from their family. The emergency of these children led to the country's second SOS Children's Village being built. This project has also been supplemented by the addition of a kindergarten, school and youth facility.