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Côte d'Ivoire: civilians trapped in escalating conflict

31-03-2011 News Release 11/77

Geneva/Abidjan (ICRC) – With the armed conflict between pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara forces and armed groups spreading and the humanitarian situation deteriorating day by day, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is launching an appeal today to bring aid to the hundreds of thousands of victims in Côte d'Ivoire and in neighbouring Liberia.

The organization is requesting an additional 15 million Swiss francs (approximately 16.2 million US dollars, or 11.5 million euros) for victims within Côte d'Ivoire, especially in Abidjan and in the west, and 5.5 million francs (5.9 million dollars, or 4.2 million euros) for Ivorian refugees in Liberia and the communities hosting them. 

"For some weeks now, the humanitarian situation in Côte d'Ivoire has been steadily deteriorating. The country is now in the throes of a full-fledged internal armed conflict," said Pierre Krähenbühl, the ICRC's director of operations. "Tens of thousands of people are fleeing the fighting and the looting. Most of them find refuge with families, but thousands of others, who are in schools, churches, mosques and other public buildings serving as makeshift reception centres, lack everything: food, emergency supplies, medicines, shelter, clean drinking water... The vast majority of refugees and other displaced people are constantly on the move, which makes it especially difficult to organize relief, and also to estimate their numbers."

 "We watch with great concern as the fighting and looting draw ever closer to Abidjan, which has already been hard hit by the conflict," added Mr Krähenbühl. "The stocks of medicines are running out, as are the stocks of chemicals needed to treat water. Wounded people are unable to make their way to hospitals owing to security concerns. Health-care centres are being forced to close because their staff cannot get to work in safety."

The ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Côte d'Ivoire are among the few humanitarian agencies able to carry out their work. "It is vital that we continue to be able to bring aid to those who need it most, and we are making a new appeal to the parties to the conflict to facilitate the movements of our teams," said Mr Krähenbühl. "Thanks mainly to our neutrality, our independence and the concrete assistance we provide for the victims, we are generally well accepted in the field by the authorities and by the many people bearing weapons, with whom we are constantly developing contacts. But nothing can ever be taken for granted in a context where security is more and more volatile."

"The parties to the conflict must distinguish between military objectives and civilians not taking part in hostilities, especially when fighting takes place in towns. Only military targets may be attacked," insisted the ICRC director of operations. "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."

Since the post-electoral crisis in Côte d'Ivoire began four months ago, the Red Cross 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 Côte d'Ivoire, 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 Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia.

In Liberia, the ICRC has registered more than 50 Ivorian children separated from their parents and helped almost 1,000 refugees to restore contact with their families. In Côte d'Ivoire, it has visited more than 450 people arrested since the beginning of December, taken various initiatives in behalf of the civilian population and escorted five trucks from the Ivorian water board transporting products needed to treat the water that is relied upon by over 800,000 people in various parts of Abidjan.

For further information, please contact:
Kelnor Panglungtshang, ICRC Abidjan, tel: +225 09 399 404
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 536 92 50
Carla Haddad Mardini, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 32 26


Photos

31 March 2011. Pierre Krähenbühl, ICRC's director of operations, during a press conference in Geneva. 

31 March 2011. Pierre Krähenbühl, ICRC's director of operations, during a press conference in Geneva.
© ICRC / T. Gassmann

Toulepleu, Côte d'Ivoire. A family of beneficiaries of an ICRC distribution transport the emergency aid they have just received, including rice, beans, cooking oil and salt. 

25.03.2011. Toulepleu, Côte d'Ivoire. A family of beneficiaries of an ICRC distribution transport the emergency aid they have just received, including rice, beans, cooking oil and salt.
© ICRC / V. Grabscheid

ICRC office in Guiglo, Côte d'Ivoire. A Red Cross team provides first aid to an injured fighter. 

29.03.2011. ICRC office in Guiglo, Côte d'Ivoire. A Red Cross team provides first aid to an injured fighter.
© ICRC / SAOURE