Liberia + 1 more

Côte d'Ivoire: Humanitarian agencies face difficulties as civilians are targeted

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(United Nations: 24 February 2003): As continuing instability limits their access to people in need, humanitarian agencies in Côte d'Ivoire are receiving consistent reports of abuses against civilians. Shortages of food and access to health care are also taking their toll on civilians caught in conflict.
The western area of Côte d'Ivoire along the border with Liberia - and in particular the area between the towns of Toulepleu, Guiglo and Touba - remains highly unstable. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) received information from the Government Crisis Cell and the Ivorian Red Cross indicating that some 40,000 IDPs are present in the Toulepleu-Guiglo area. WFP has undertaken missions in the past week to the towns of Guiglo San Pedro, Tabou and Grabo to assess the food security of vulnerable populations and IDPs in those areas. The non-governmental organization (NGO) Solidarities further reports that around 85,000 people have fled military confrontation, rape, pillaging, and summary executions near the western towns of Guiglo and Duekoue. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)-Holland reports that there are some 2,000 IDPs in Grabo, that "foreigners" there are suffering from human rights abuses, that the town has been looted, and that food security is tenuous. Solidarities also reports that shelter and hygiene conditions in the overpopulated villages situated on the fringe of combat zones are deplorable, and humanitarian assistance is not yet in place. Reports of atrocities and lawlessness, particularly in the in the west, and large numbers of IDPs fleeing violence are extremely worrying.

In a 20 February statement, Amnesty International lent its voice to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)'s continuing appeals to find a solution for some 40,000 Liberian refugees remaining in Côte d'Ivoire, including some 7,000 in Nicla refugee camp, saying "Liberian refugees are being indiscriminately associated with the armed opposition... and are being killed both by Ivorian security forces and groups of civilians, some of them armed by the government". UNHCR continues voluntary repatriation of extremely vulnerable Liberian refugees from the town of Tabou in southwestern Côte d'Ivoire: as of 19 February, 2,200 had been repatriated. Liberian refugees currently being housed in transit centers in Abidjan staged several sit-ins in front of UNHCR's office in Abidjan during the reporting period, demanding to be moved to a safer location.

Humanitarian agencies also report that civilians in Côte d'Ivoire suffer from shortages of food and health care. WFP continues to provide food aid to vulnerable populations in and around Bouake, and monitor the food security situation of IDPs and host families in Yamoussoukro and the sub-prefecture of Didievi with NGO partners including CARE. The Mie N'Gou reception center in Yamoussoukro, where WFP and a local NGO carry out a therapeutic feeding program, remains overcrowded and under funded, lacking adequate hygiene infrastructure and logistical support. WFP is working with UNICEF and the Ministry of Education on a School Feeding Programme aimed at ensuring that children attend school in areas affected by violence and instability.

In the health sector, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that 85% of medical personnel in rebel-held zones have left their posts, and that at least 70% of health care facilities are not functioning. Of particular concern are reports of malnutrition in children under five years of age, many severe cases of malaria resulting in death, and elevated rates of births of underweight babies and mothers dying during childbirth.

For further information, please contact

Abidjan: Jeff Brez, tel. 225 2240 4442
New York: Brian Grogan, tel. (212) 963 1143

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