Côte d'Ivoire: drinking water for 57,000 victims of inter-community violence

24-02-2011 Operational Update

A month after inter-community clashes erupted in the west and centre-west the humanitarian situation remains difficult for displaced people and their host families. The ICRC and Ivorian Red Cross volunteers are maintaining their assistance for needy people in these areas and throughout the country.

Lakota and Bangolo: violence and lack of security prompt people to flee

Inter-community clashes that rocked Lakota in mid-January resulted in the death or injury of untold numbers of people and in the displacement of hundreds. Most of those displaced have now returned to their homes or are living with host families. Many found their homes destroyed by fire, however, and lost all their belongings. "The situation in Lakota remains very tense and unsettled," said Hyacinthe Komenan Gbla, head of the ICRC office in Gagnoa. "After providing emergency aid for displaced people at the Catholic mission in January, we are now concentrating on making sure that everyone in the city has access to clean drinking water, and on meeting the most pressing needs of those who lost everything."

In the former "confidence zone" dividing the northern and southern parts of the country, thousands of inhabitants have left the city of Bangolo since mid-December 2010. Fearing violence, they have taken refuge in nearby villages, often in the bush in places difficult to reach. The withdrawal of the integrated command centre and the reduction in the number of patrols carried out by forces of the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) in this area have made civilians feel insecure.

Displaced people in Duékoué are still suffering from the effects of the inter-community violence of early January. While the security situation in the city has considerably improved, thousands of people have left Duékoué or are still displaced either in other parts of the city or in the Protestant or Catholic mission.

Improving access to drinking water and sanitary conditions

Access to clean drinking water and knowledge of basic rules of hygiene are crucial to preventing avoidable illness and other health problems.

The ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Côte d'Ivoire have chlorinated nearly 1,000 wells used by some 27,000 people in four Duékoué neighbourhoods, and they have begun to chlorinate all the wells in Lakota, which are used by over 30,000 people. They also handle maintenance of the water tank, tap stands, latrines and showers made available to displaced people in Duékoué and raise awareness of basic hygiene among the population.

Emergency aid for over 4,200 displaced people

To meet the most urgent needs of displaced people, the ICRC has distributed such essential supplies as tarpaulins, clothing, kitchen sets, mosquito nets, buckets, basins and soap.

Over the past five weeks, the ICRC has brought aid to nearly 3,700 people displaced from Bangolo to 13 nearby villages, nearly 370 people displaced from Duékoué to Guiglo and Daloa, and 200 displaced people at the Catholic mission in Lakota.

Support for medical services

The post-election crisis has not spared the public health system. Several hospitals lack medical supplies and personnel. In order to ensure that there is at least a basic medical service for the civilian population, the ICRC and the Ivorian Red Cross have provided each of five hospitals with a kit containing enough dressing materials to treat up to 100 casualties. Three of the hospitals and another medical facility were also given basic medicines, intravenous equipment and surgical supplies. A health post at the Catholic mission in Duékoué, where Ivorian Red Cross volunteers have treated more than 2,000 displaced people since January, remains open.

The ICRC has maintained its support for Ivorian Red Cross first-aid activities. First-aid workers were on hand to provide care when the Young Patriots gathered in Republic Square, and they tended to people injured in violent clashes at the beginning of February, particularly in Bondoukou and in the Abobo neighbourhood of Abidjan. Over 120 people have been assisted by Ivorian Red Cross volunteers in post-election violence since 19 January.

Detainee-welfare activities

ICRC delegates have continued to visit people arrested or otherwise detained in order to monitor the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they receive.

Since 19 January, the ICRC has:

  • made 11 visits to 11 permanent and temporary places of detention throughout the country holding a total of 8,287 people;
  • talked privately with six detainees, including five for the first time;
  • made 67 telephone calls to inform family members of what had happened to their detained relatives,
  • distributed 35 and collected nine Red Cross messages (brief messages containing family news);
  • provided food aid for 1,100 detainees in 10 prisons;
  • provided 1,800 bars of hygienic soap, 50 brooms and brushes, and 25 buckets for 1,800 detainees in seven prisons;
  • covered the medical expenses of two detainees.

Assistance to refugees and host communities in Liberia

The number of Ivorian refugees across the border in Liberia continues to increase, with the UNHCR putting their number at 38,000. "The situation places a heavy burden on the host communities," explained Karin Hofmann, head of the ICRC delegation in Liberia. "To provide refugees and the host population with water and sanitary facilities, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has been building and repairing hand pumps, latrines and bathhouses. The improved facilities and the safe drinking water will help prevent the spread of infectious diseases."

Before the next planting season in April, the Liberian Red Cross and the ICRC will distribute tools and seed rice to farmers in host communities and give them technical advice. The aim is to compensate the host population for the seed rice that has been used to feed the refugees and to ensure food security in the longer term.

To facilitate access to the border communities and to ensure that humanitarian aid teams can operate, the ICRC and the Liberian Red Cross have repaired bridges and assessed the state of several others in the area.

The ICRC and Liberian Red Cross volunteers continue to help refugees restore contact with their families. They register unaccompanied children, collect and send Red Cross messages and call families in Côte d'Ivoire. Trained Red Cross volunteers are helping people with such needs in the host communities and in the newly-opened UNHCR refugee camp in Nimba County. Volunteers and ICRC staff are also providing tracing services in Maryland, River Gee and Grand Geddeh Counties, which are hosting a smaller number of refugees.


For further information, please contact:
Philippe Beauverd, ICRC Abidjan, tel: +225 224 000 70
Noora Kero, ICRC Monrovia, tel: +231 651 99 67 or +231 77 55 65 33
Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 58 or +41 79 217 32 24


Department of Bangolo. ICRC distribution of essential supplies in the village of Diéou Zibiao. 

Department of Bangolo. ICRC distribution of essential supplies in the village of Diéou Zibiao.
© ICRC / T. Ambroise