Côte d'Ivoire: September to October 2002
23-10-2002 Operational Update No REX 02/972 - Update No 27/2002
· More than one month since the start of the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, the situation remains volatile and extremely unpredictable despite the recent agreement on a truce between the insurgents and government forces. At this stage, the humanitarian consequences of the conflict for the civilian population are mostly localised and limited in their extent, however, a further deterioration with both humanitarian and economic implications cannot be excluded;
· Since the beginning of the uprising, the ICRC, in cooperation with the Red Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire, has been providing emergency assistance to civilians affected by the conflict (support to existing medical and water structures in conflict zones, mobile health clinics, ad hoc food and non-food assistance, detention visits to persons held as a result of the crisis and tracing activities). Since 10 October, the ICRC has been able to establish a permanent presence in Bouaké and has intensified its operations for victims of the conflict in both rebel-held areas and government-controlled areas;
More than one month since the 19 September coup attempt, the situation in Côte d’Ivoire remains extremely unpredictable. Nevertheless, there are positive signs that a negotiated end to the conflict between the insurgents, known as the Mouvement patriotique de Côte d'Ivoire, and the Government may be in sight after both sides publicly expressed their support for a West African-brokered ceasefire on 18 October.
Since the start of the uprising hundreds of people have reportedly been killed and injured in the fighting, that so far seems to have spared major civilian casualties. The rebels hold the northern half of the country, including the town of Bouaké, which is now relatively calm after heavy fighting over the last few weeks.
At this stage, the humanitarian consequences of the current crisis in Côte d’Ivoire are mostly localised and limited in their extent, however, the situation remains extremely unpredictable and further deterioration in both the humanitarian and economic situations cannot be excluded.
Abidjan is presently stable. The number of arrests following the insurrection on 19 September has been limited and the ICRC has been able to visit those detained and to monitor their conditions of detention. On 8 October the Government of Côte d'Ivoire announced its intention to suspend tempora rily the demolition of shantytowns in Abidjan. Approximately 2,000 people who lost their homes and all their possessions had been staying in temporary reception areas in Abidjan and had been assisted. They are currently awaiting relocation to more permanent sites.
In the west, the towns of Duékoué, Bangolo and Man have received some 6,000 Burkina Faso, Malian and non-native Ivorian farmers who have been driven from their land and neighbouring villages due to intercommmunal violence. The situation seems to be currently under control as they await their return home. In the meantime these people have also been provided with food and non-food assistance.
Meanwhile, a question mark hangs over the current humanitarian situation prevailing in Daloa after several days of armed clashes.
The epicentre of the crisis remains Bouaké, which saw heavy fighting for several weeks. In the city civilians have access to essential services, however, supplies of important items could run short in the near future. It is estimated that some 200,000 people (population 600,000) have fled the town since 19 September, however, most are being looked after in their villages of origin or with families in urban areas. Numbers of displaced persons (IDPs) in transit moving southwards have been sheltered and assisted at M’bahiakro, Didiévi, Tiébissou and Yamoussoukro.
In the northern half of the country life in towns under rebel-control (Korhogo, Ferkessédougou, Odienné, etc.) has slowed, but access to basic necessities, including food, water and healthcare has been possible.
Since the beginning of the crisis, the ICRC, in cooperation with the Red Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire (RCSCI), has been leading the Red Cross humanitarian response and sup-porting the RCSCI to provide emergency assistance to civilians affected by the fighting.
The current focus of activities:
· support to existing structures that provide essential services (medical and drinking water);
· mobile health clinics providing first aid to wounded combatants and civilians;
· ad hoc food and non-food assistance for displaced persons and vulnerable civilians in the conflict zones;
· detention visits to persons held as a result of the crisis;
· tracing activities.
The Red Cross Movement has been able to respond quickly to the present humanitarian needs thanks to the ICRC’s regional delegation in Abidjan (13 expatriates and 39 national staff, including 4 ICRC regional experts) and the presence of the RCSCI countrywide with 39 local committees. Over the last month ICRC staff has been increased to cope with the additional workload. RCSCI offices in Bouaké, Yamoussoukro, Ferkessedougou and Korhogo have been particularly active in providing first aid for the victims of the current crisis. The response has also been facilitated due to the ICRC non-food stock at its warehouse in Man, as well as due to medical stock delivered by neighbouring ICRC delegations.
Since 10 October, the ICRC has been able to establish a permanent presence in Bouaké so that, together with the RCSCI, it can more effectively pursue its operations for victims of the conflict in rebel-held areas. Evaluations continue in the north and west of the country, notably in Korhogo, Ferkessédougou, Séguéla, Vavoua and Odiéné.
The ICRC's regional delegation in Abidjan also covers Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghan a and Togo (office in Lomé), as well as Côte d'Ivoire.
Visits to persons detained in relation to the current crisis
Following the authorisation by the Ministry of Defence to visit all places of detention held by the government forces, the ICRC, in compliance with its mandate, started its visits to detainees in relation with the current events. To date, detainees are being visited regularly by ICRC delegates in five places of detention. Their families are being informed on their fate. In order to improve the health situation within the detention structures, non-food items have been distributed.
In response to the destruction of shantytowns in Abidjan, the RCSCI, with ICRC support, has distributed essential non-food items (such as blankets, plastic sheeting and soap) to five temporary IDP reception centres in Abidjan. This assistance is for the most vulnerable accommodated in the centres until more suitable shelter can be found. So far, the aid covers the basic needs of an estimated 2,000 IDPs.
Following the outbreak of hostilities, the ICRC provided the military hospital as well as several medical structures in Abidjan with medical supplies for about 200 patients. Surgery material was also given to a team of military surgeons treating wounded soldiers in Yamoussoukro.
As mentioned above, since 10 October, the ICRC has been able to establish a permanent ICRC presence in Bouaké covering rebel-held areas from where it has been able to work together with RCSCI to extend its assistance for victims of the conflict.
The ICRC, in partnership with WFP, has begun a food assistance operation (providing 100 tonnes rice, 6 tonnes of sardines, 1 tonne of salt, 6 tonnes of oil and milk powder) in the city. Public kitchens are being set up for vulnerable people in the poorest districts of Bouaké (Tola-Kouadiokro and Broukro) and distributions will also be organised for others staying at social centres, hospitals and orphanages in the city. In total, approximately 10,000 vulnerable persons will be assisted.
Work has also started with the RCSCI to clean up certain parts of the city. Red Cross volunteers have been collecting rubbish to prevent the outbreak of disease and epidemics. The RCSCI is also assisting undertakers with the collection of bodies in the city.
The ICRC/RCSCI has also supported the Ministry of Health by providing essential medicines and other medical supplies to existing medical structures. It has delivered supplies to Bouaké Military Hospital whic h had been experiencing shortages. Civilian and military war-wounded have received treatment there and at the Bouaké University Teaching Hospital since the current crisis began. The supplies (for the basic treatment to 2,000 persons for 3 months) were delivered in a Red Cross ambulance with the consent of both the Ivorian authorities and the insurgents.
Korhogo Regional Hospital and Ferkessédougou General Hospital have also been provided with medical supplies. The ICRC has been attempting to centralise the medicine stocks from the few remaining working pharmacies and there are plans to set up a number of first-aid posts in key locations in the north.
The RCSCI has also set up a system of mobile clinics with ICRC support so that the residents of the various districts of Bouaké can receive medical care (approximately 150 medical consultations per day) and the most serious cases can be taken to the city's health facilities. Moreover, Red Cross volunteers are helping the national blood transfusion centre in Bouaké to collect blood.
From the beginning of the crisis in Bouaké and Korhogo, RCSCI volunteers have been giving first-aid assistance to wounded combatants and civilians, and facilitating their evacuation to nearby hospitals.
Access to drinking water
Due to technical and maintenance problems, Bouaké and the surrounding areas have, in recent weeks, been partially cut off from drinking water. The ICRC, in cooperation with the RCSCI and the Water Company SODECI, has facilitated the transportation of technicians, spare parts and chemical products to Bouaké, allowing the repair of the local water treatment plant. Some 600,000 people in Bouaké, Sakassou as well as in 31 surrounding villages have again access to drinking water.
Visits to persons detained in relation to the current crisis
On the insurgent-side agreement has also been reached for the ICRC to visit those persons arrested by the rebels during the current crisis. Visits should start shortly.
A system has also been set up to register the names and details of those persons staying in Bouaké separated from their families in other parts of the country to be able to make contact.
The ICRC-RCSCI has provided non-food items for some structures in order to help them to accommodate some 400 people who have fled Bouaké and who are temporarily staying at the Catholic Missions in M'bahiakro and in Didiévi, 150km north-east of Yamoussoukro.
On 11 October the ICRC delivered mats, blankets, soap and sheeting for some 5,000 people currently sheltering in the Catholic Mission in Duékoué (around 80 km south of Man). Hygiene and medical supplies were also given to the city's health authorities.
Food provided by WFP has also been distributed by RCSCI to these 5,000 IDPs forced from their land, as well as to 1,000 IDPs who are staying at Bangolo and Man in western Côte d’Ivoire.
Medical supplies and an ambulance have also been pre-positioned at Daloa to support the RCSCI . During the acute phase of fighting, the RCSCI volunteers and the ICRC evacuated a number of injured people. A team is presently evaluating the humanitarian consequences of the recent fighting and has assisted the medical facilities. The ICRC is concerned by the recent killings in Daloa.
Help for Ivoirian refugees
In response to events in Côte d'Ivoire since 19 September, a team composed of staff from the ICRC and the Mali Red Cross (MRC) has visited the areas along the border between the two countries on 5-6 October in order to assess the need for humanitarian aid, in particular in Sikasso, the regional capital, and Zégoua, a Malian border town.
Some 600 Ivorian refugees mostly from southern Côte d'Ivoire who had been working in the north of the country were present in the area. They said that they had fled into Mali for fear of being attacked by northerners. The ICRC/MRC provided emergency food and non-food assistance to the refugees.
Similarly an ICRC/Burkinabé Red Cross Society (BRCS) team is presently evaluating the situation in the southern region, which may face humanitarian consequences from the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire. The authorities together with other humanitarian actors from the region, including the BRCS, have established an action plan for the possible return home of Burkinan refugees from Côte d’Ivoire. If necessary the BRCS will be responsible for assisting the management of transit c amps, first aid and tracing activities, supported by the ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The ICRC has been coordinating the response to the crisis on behalf of the other components of the Movement.
The Ministry of Health and Solidarity has set up a crisis coordination cell under which the UN organisations and NGOs must work. WFP and UNHCR are particularly active in response to the current situation, together with MSF-France who has a surgical team working in Bouaké Regional Hospital. The ICRC is presently in close contact with the UN agencies to discuss the humanitarian consequences of the current crisis and the international response to the needs.
As described on pages 94-97 of the ICRC Emergency Appeals 2002, while responding to the current emergency, ICRC activities in the country remain:
· to monitor the situation of civilians and the conditions of people deprived of freedom;
· to monitor the situation in the country for possible outbreaks of inter-communal violence;
· to support the efforts of the region’s authorities and armed and security forces to implement international humanitarian law and on raising awareness among the armed forces of the need to respect its rules;
· to support the development of the region’s National Societies’ tracing, dissemination and emergency preparedness capacities.
For further information, please contact the External Resources Division.