accessibility & help

Ivory Coast: civilians trapped in escalating conflict

1 April 2011
Ivory Coast refugees arrive in LiberiaAs armed conflict intensifies in the Ivory Coast more than 100,000 people have fled to Liberia and the Red Cross is providing aid to thousands of civilians affected by the fighting.

With many refugees staying in Liberian villages just across the border from their home country, the food stocks in this area have been depleted, which could lead to a food emergency. Thousands of refugees have also arrived in neighbouring Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana.

Barry Armstrong, British Red Cross disaster response manager, said: “In Liberia, the Red Cross is providing 50,000 refugees and host communities with essential items such as blankets, sleeping mats, buckets, soap, cooking utensils and shelter materials. We’ve already given £125,000 from our Disaster Fund to support the Red Cross response in Liberia and the Ivory Coast, however with the deteriorating situation it’s likely the response operation will need to be stepped up.”

Aid for refugees

The fighting erupted in the Ivory Coast after an escalating dispute over last November’s presidential elections between incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to cede power, and Alassane Ouattara who has been internationally recognised as the winner.

Barry said: “The vast majority of people fleeing the fighting are constantly on the move, making it especially difficult to organise relief and estimate their numbers. But we know that food, emergency supplies, medicines, shelter and clean drinking water are urgently needed for thousands staying in schools, churches, mosques and other public buildings.”

Red Cross support

Since the post-electoral crisis began four months ago, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has provided nearly 20,000 displaced people with emergency supplies, assisted over 1,100 wounded people, and supplied emergency items to numerous medical facilities.

It has installed water tanks to serve nearly 10,000 displaced people in the town of Duékoué, in western Ivory Coast, and to serve more than 10,000 refugees and their host families in the town of Buutuo, just across the Liberian border.

The Red Cross has also built over 150 latrines and dozens of showers, and has chlorinated, repaired or dug wells serving over 70,000 people in the Ivory Coast and Liberia.

International humanitarian law

The Red Cross is among the few humanitarian agencies currently able to work in the Ivory Coast. Pierre Krähenbühl, the International Committee of the Red Cross’ director of operations, said: "It is vital that we continue to have access to those who need humanitarian aid, and we are making a new appeal to the parties to the conflict to facilitate the movements of our teams.

"As the fighting and looting draw ever closer to Abidjan, the stocks of medicines are running out, as are the stocks of chemicals needed to treat water. Also, wounded people are unable to make their way to hospitals owing to security concerns.

"The parties to the conflict must distinguish between military objectives and civilians not taking part in hostilities, especially when fighting takes place in towns. Under international humanitarian law, the wounded and sick must be cared for, and medical facilities, ambulances and personnel must be respected and protected. In addition, all those detained must be treated humanely."

We have made a contribution from our Disaster Fund in response to this crisis. Future donations to the Disaster Fund will not be used directly in response to this disaster, but will help us be ready to respond as soon as we are needed, anywhere in the world.

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