Carolyn McAskie, Special Humanitarian Envoy of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, begins her month-long mission in the region amid reports that Liberian refugees are being recruited by both the Ivorian regular army and rebel groups. Clashes in the western part of Côte d'Ivoire and recent ceasefire violations in the north have forced an estimated 400,000 persons in the central and northern regions to flee south, according to an update issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Of the parties to the conflict that sparked the crisis, Ms. McAskie told reporters in Abidjan today "the message I will convey is that the United Nations attaches great importance to the protection of civilians, the respect of human rights." Stressing the importance of the parties' responsibilities with respect to the humanitarian situation, Ms. McAskie also assured them that "the UN Secretary-General and the Security Council are watching the situation closely."
In the afternoon, Ms. McAskie met with the Ivorian Minister of Urbanism and Housing, Raymond Abouo-N'dori, to discuss the situation of shantytowns in Abidjan.
During the mission, Ms. McAskie will also meet with other Government authorities, UN Agencies, and a wide range of international and local humanitarian organizations. She will also visit IDP reception centres, transit centres and refugee shelters in Abidjan as well as in other parts of Côte d'Ivoire to talk with those affected by the crisis and gain a deeper understanding of their experiences and needs.
Ms. McAskie is also scheduled to visit neighbouring countries affected by the crisis to mobilize resources for, and improve coordination of, the humanitarian response.