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The ICRC in West Africa – 2005 activities and prospects

25-05-2005 Feature

The ICRC's current activities in West Africa are multiple; two places, however, draw particular attention: Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire.


© ICRC / Raymond Dakoua / ref ci-n-00006-13 
Côte d'Ivoire: Relief supplies being prepared for civilians affected by armed violence. This West African country, which previously enjoyed a reputation for stability, has suffered serious and repeated internal clashes since 2002. It is now divided in two and peace agreements between government forces and the rebels have not healed the division. The civilian population continues to fall victim to serious excesses despite the presence of foreign military contingents responsible for separating the warring parties.
© ICRC / Boris Heger / ref lr-e-00004 
Liberia: Photos of children who have been separated from their families are posted on the outer wall of the ICRC delegation in Monrovia by Liberian Red Cross volunteers. Though peace returned to the West African country in 2004, over 1,150 children – some of whom fled the fighting across the border to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire – remain separated from their families. The ICRC is making a major effort to trace these children and reunite them with their loved ones. Between 2001 and 2005, almost 1,350 children were able to return home thanks to the ICRC.
In Liberia, the ICRC is seeking to give people back the dignity they deserve and the means to return to their homes after years of displacement and refuge in neighbouring countries.

In the badly affected district of Lofa, for example, the ICRC has just distributed seeds and agricultural tools for some 65,000 families to help them become self-sufficient and no longer depend on external aid. In the same area, the ICRC is cooperating with the Ministry of Health to help rebuild a comprehensive health system for the population.

In addition, the ICRC tracing programme is extremely important here and across the whole region. It helps families, in particular unaccompanied children, to be reunited after years of separation due to the conflicts.

In Côte d'Ivoire the conflict has disrupted basic services.

The ICRC helps preserve access to drinking water for 1,500,000 people in the northern urban centres by maintaining infrastructure and providing necessary materials. It also maintains a dialogue with all parties to the conflict to guarantee equal provision of services to all those Ivorian affected by the crisis.

In the future, the ICRC will continue to respond to meet the needs of those affected by conflict and tension across West Africa.

Of the 24 countries included in this region, 15 require immediate attention. Detention, family reunification, assistance and projects to guarantee access to water are the main activities accomplished on a daily basis.

The further development of local Red Cross Societies taking care of the most vulnerable is also at the top of the agenda for the ICRC.

Although some of the region's priorities are not necessarily covered by the ICRC's mandate: HIV, poverty, desertification, migration to name but a few, the institution coordinates with other humanitarian and development agencies.

Last but not least, the ICRC promotes dissemination, ratification and implementation of international humanitarian law treaties all levels of society.