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Côte d’Ivoire: the Red Cross strengthens its response

16-12-2010 Interview

The second round of the presidential elections on 28 November led to violent clashes. In a climate of tension like that, neutral and impartial humanitarian action by the ICRC is vital to protect and assist vulnerable people, explains Dominique Liengme, head of the regional delegation in Abidjan.

What is your view of the current humanitarian situation in Côte d’Ivoire? What role do the ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire play in that situation?

The situation is complex and fragile. In Abidjan and several areas within the country, fighting between supporters of the two candidates and between supporters and the security forces killed several people and left numerous others wounded. We are concerned by the fate of the victims of violence and the people in general.
As a neutral and impartial humanitarian organization, the ICRC is present at various locations in Côte d’Ivoire, both in the south and in the north, and is ready to take action wherever it is needed. It assists all victims without distinction. Its action is based on international agreements and fundamental legal principles. It is extremely important for all parties concerned to understand the ICRC’s role.

The Red Cross of Côte d’Ivoire is the ICRC’s main partner in that country. It provides treatment for the wounded, in particular thanks to the first-aid training and equipment that the ICRC has given its volunteers. Since 26 November, the Côte d’Ivoire Red Cross, with the support of the ICRC, has given first aid to nearly 400 wounded people; around a hundred of them were serious cases and were evacuated to the nearest hospitals.

What are the ICRC’s current priorities?

It is vital for the wounded to be given the treatment and assistance that they need and for the people who have been arrested to be treated humanely and visited by the ICRC as soon as possible, irrespective of where they are held.

So far, the ICRC has supplied four hospitals in the southern part of the country with five dressing kits, which will allow them to treat 250 wounded people. In addition, several people who were arrested during the fighting have been visited by the ICRC to make sure that they are being treated properly and are held in decent conditions.

The ICRC is monitoring the situation of displaced persons regularly and assesses their needs so as to provide them with basic necessities. It was thus able to provide basic household items for 180 displaced persons in Sinfra (centre-west of Côte d’Ivoire).

Respect for the ICRC’s neutrality and impartial humanitarian action is a constant concern. Without it, neither the ICRC nor the Ivorian Red Cross would be able to help the victims.

In such a sensitive situation, how do you make sure that your activities go smoothly?

Acceptance of what we do is our best guarantee of security. That is why the ICRC maintains an ongoing dialogue with all parties concerned, particularly the civilian and military authorities as well as the political players and the civil society. We explain to everyone that our mandate is purely humanitarian and that our work is guided by the principles of neutrality and impartiality. We publicize what we have done in the north, south, east and west of the country.

We also explain that we are an independent organization which is not part of the United Nations system. Nonetheless, we take account of the other humanitarian organizations in the strategies that we implement.

Lastly, the ICRC has stepped up its awareness enhancement and information activities among the local people in order to ensure respect for the impartial action of the Red Cross.


Photos

Abidjan, 28 November 2010. A team from the ICRC and the Côte d’Ivoire Red Cross monitoring the humanitarian situation on the day of the presidential election. 

Abidjan, 28 November 2010. A team from the ICRC and the Côte d’Ivoire Red Cross monitoring the humanitarian situation on the day of the presidential election.
© ICRC / A. Stoeckli