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Côte D'Ivoire: parties to conflict remain far apart

07-07-2004 Operational Update

Hopes that the situation in Côte D'Ivoire would stabilize during the course of 2004 have gradually diminished, raising humanitarian concerns for those most affected by the armed conflict between government forces and the rebel group, Forces Nouvelles.

The signing of a peace agreement in January and the formation of a government of national reconciliation in March had raised expectations for the end of hostilities but long-standing differences over nationality and land rights remain to be resolved. In addition, rebel groups have boycotted the government since March 25, when more than 100 people died during a confrontation between protesters and forces loyal to President Gbagbo.

The humanitarian emergency created by the conflict continues to be of serious concern particularly in the north and west. The country is now divided into three zones -- the south controlled by government troops, the north by the rebel group Forces Nouvelles and the buffer zone by French forces and peace-keepers provided by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). 

The ICRC has been coordinating the Movement's Response to the crisis in Côte D'Ivoire. It supports the Red Cross Society of Côte D'Ivoire (RCSCI) in providing emergency assistance to civilians affected by conflict. The ICRC has authorization and security guarantees from all parties and as a result has access to most of the country.

 
Operational highlights, February to June 2004 
 
Protection 
 

 Visiting Detainees: the ICRC has access to all places of detention under the authority of the Ministries of Defence, Justice and Security as well as detention sites controlled by the Forces Nouvelles . Altogether, since 19 September 2002 the ICRC has visited more than 600 persons held in connection with the conflict in 41 places of detention.    

    

 Exchange of detainees: At the invitation of the parties to the conflict, the ICRC in March took part in the release and transfer to Abidjan of 8 government troops held by the Forces Nouvelles . ICRC delegates interviewed each person in private to check his identity and state of health.

 Restoring family links: many family members have lost touch with each other since the beginning of the conflict. To help restore contact, the ICRC operates a Red Cross message network which is handling more than 600 messages a month.

 Unaccompanied children: In the last four months, the ICRC has returned another three Ivorian children to their parents. Two of them were escorted from refugee camps in Guinea back to their parents in the western part of Côte D'Ivoire after more than a year of separation. Since the beginning of the conflict, the ICRC has now restored almost thirty children to their families. It is also involved in trying to find the families of former child soldiers under the care of UNICEF. In addition, the families of 27 child refugees from Liberia have also been found and they are in the course of being reunited.

 
Food and other aid 
 

 Food and basic necessities : Months of hostilities accompanied by looting of food and other materials have had a severe impact on the civilian population. In April, the ICRC completed a significant distribution of basic necessities (blankets, kitchen utensils, sleeping mats, soap, plastic sheeting, buckets) for the benefit of 175,000 displaced people returning to some 250 villages in Grabo, Tai, Duékoué, Bangolo, Toulepleu, Bin-Houyé, Zouhan-Hounien and Danané.

Seed and farming tools were also distributed to around 3,000 women in the west of the country particularly affected by the conflict.

In May, an emergency relief operation was carried out to provide basic necessities to over 2,500 displaced people in Bangolo. 

The ICRC also continues to supply around 70 institutions and health facilities (hospitals, orphanages and leprosy centres) with food made available by the World Food Programme (WFP) or provided by the ICRC.

At Guiglo, almost 7,000 displaced people received a donation of soap; displaced people in transit in the north are able to rest and receive basic care in three centres managed by the ICRC.

 
Medical Assistance 
 

 Medical supplies: in areas where the state-run pharmacies are not in a position to provide medicine, the ICRC (with the financial support of the EU) is supplying almost 100 medical facilities that serve more than 2 million people. Dressing materials are regularly supplied to several local Red Cross branches.

 Emergencies and vaccinations: The ICRC has supplied various hospitals to allow them to react to emergency situations. In addition, following the events of March 25 and 26 in Abidjan, five of the town's hospitals benefited from the provision of medical supplies to treat the injured.

 Health monitoring and coordination : The ICRC monitors the outbreak of epidemics (including measles, cholera and meningitis). It shares its findings with the health authorities, other humanitarian organizations and donors to coordinate the response to the health needs of the population. It also provides information on sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. 

 
Water and sanitation services 
 

 Water treatment: The ICRC helps provide clean water to around 70 towns or 1.5 million people. During the first six months of the year, the ICRC transported around 448 tonnes of essential substances (hypochlorite, aluminium sulphate and lime) ensuring proper treatment. It also provides materials to maintain water treatment plants, transport for engineers and has completed a first round of water analysis to verify its quality.

In March 2004, the ICRC signed a contract with the EU to guarantee the continuation of its assistance in field of water and sanitation services.

The local branches of the RCSCI also help collect and dispose of rubbish in areas such as Bloléquin.

 
Promoting international humanitarian law 
 

The ICRC regularly reminds all parties to the conflict of their obligations under international humani tarian law as well as informing the wider public of IHL. Specific programmes taken in the last few months included the following:

 Police: the ICRC has taken part in courses for around 1,200 trainee police officers exploring international humanitarian law and wider ICRC activities. It has also given presentations to police forces on the treatment of detainees.

 Combatants: 180 soldiers from Forces Nouvelles took part in a course on IHL. 40 peacekeepers also participated in an IHL course in May. 

 Media: In March, there was a workshop on IHL for 27 journalists in Bouaké.

 Schoolchildren:  Côte D'Ivoire is one of more than a dozen African countries taking part in an ICRC programme to promote knowledge of humanitarian law among secondary school pupils. The " Exploring Humanitarian Law " programme is being tested in 12 schools throughout the country.

 
Coordination within the Movement 
 

Since the beginning of the crisis in the Côte D'Ivoire, the ICRC, on the basis of the Seville Agreement , has served as the lead agency for the Movement, Activities are coordinated with the Ivorian Red Cross and the International Federation. The ICRC provides the national society with technical, logistical and financial support.

The International Federation also supports the national Red Cross and works to strengthen its operational capacity. At the same time it coordinates the action taken by Red Cross societies in neighbouring countries to help people affected by the conflict in the Côte D'Ivoire.