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Cote d'Ivoire: ICRC deeply worried by civilians' fate as conflict escalates

01-04-2011 News Footage Ref. V-F-CR-F-01088-A

At a press conference in Geneva (31.03.11), ICRC head of operations Pierre Kraehenbuehl said that the situation in Cote d'Ivoire now amounted to an internal armed conflict, causing thousands of casualties and widespread displacements of population.


For more information, please contact Didier Revol, ICRC, Geneva, tel: + 41 79 217 32 82, or e-mail

See also press release : Civilians trapped in escalating conflict

At a press conference in Geneva (31.03.11), ICRC head of operations Pierre Kraehenbuehl said that the situation in Cote d'Ivoire now amounted to an internal armed conflict, causing thousands of casualties and widespread displacements of population.

Pierre Kraehenbuehl explained that a widespread phenomenon is multiple rounds of looting attributed firstly to militias or armed groups loyal to both sides. In such situations, this is typically accompanied by violence against civilians, which could include physical and sexual violence.

While the ICRC in Côte d'Ivoire has already reminded all parties to the conflict of their obligations under IHL – among them sparing civilians and distinguishing between military and civilian targets – the organization has noted that, in addition to an upsurge in the fighting, law and order has broken down in certain places, causing tens of thousands of civilians to flee the fighting and looting.

The ICRC head of operations announced that the organization was calling for an additional 20,5 million Swiss francs, 15 million for Côte d'Ivoire and 5,5 million for Liberia where over 110,000 refugees have sought a safe haven according to the UN. This budget extension will be dedicated to providing emergency relief and ensuring access to safe water and health care for displaced, residents and people deprived of their freedoom. Pierre Kraehenbuehl said that medical stocks as well as stocks for the treatment of water are running out in many parts of the country.

Says Pierre Kraehenbuehl: "The ICRC and the Ivorian Red Cross are generally well accepted but this cannot be taken for granted. As tensions are running high, check-points are numerous, behaviour by fighters often unpredictable and rejection of foreign presence is already felt." The prospect of an all-out armed confrontation in the country's main urban centres such as Abidjan is of particular worry to the ICRC.



00 00 ICRC head of operations Pierre Kraehenbuehl arriving at press conference (3)

00 12 CS cameraman

00 16 Soundbite
ICRC head of operations Pierre Kraehenbuehl speaks at press conference, ICRC Headquarters, Geneva (English – 34"): "The issue is really civilians being caught up and locked into the logic of the violence, and that's what is taking place. When armed forces move through villages, when forces approach, there is immediately this moment of withdrawal and then there is a vacuum, the vacuum is filled by sometimes even unidentified groups, sometimes they are just a mix of militias, local criminal actors, and civilians find themselves caught up in this."

00 50 Soundbite
Pierre Kraehenbuehl (English – 17"): "We were aiming in this budget extension to be able to assist people in the provision of safe access to water up to 8 million people. That's simply because we have anticipated there may be large numbers of people in different areas who are affected by the breakdown of supplies."

01 07 Soundbite

Pierre Kraehenbuehl (English – 37"): "We have experienced from many contexts of the region both Liberia and sierra Leon but also from Ivory Cost in the previous period o f how suddenly a situation can become very unpredictable and violent for civilians who are living in very densely populated areas and where suddenly two parties use heavy weaponry in the middle of these densely populated areas. Civilians get caught up in this, they get cut off from supplies, from access to health care, they also get cut off from water supplies, and then are exposed to looting and acts of quite significant brutality."

01 44 Soundbite
Pierre Kraehenbuehl (English – 25"): "For people who are wounded, and frankly for, people who are sick, to have access to health posts and hospitals is very very difficult. And we do also see signs, although we still have to document them further, of instancves where there is lack of respect for medical installations and the staff itself. So these issues we have to take up because we know how critical they are to be able to save lives in situation of armed conflict.

02 10 Soundbite
Pierre Kraehenbuehl (French – 37"): "Il y a effectivement le souvenir d'expériences difficiles que ce soit dans le passé au Libéria ou au Sierra leone, mais aussi en Côte d'Ivoire directement au début des années 2000 avec cette situation où les civils sont pris dans des centres urbains dans des échanges de tirs à l'arme lourde entre différentes parties, où ils sont donc directement blessés ou affectés, mais aussi parce qu'ils sont coupés de l'approvisionnement et de l'accès à des soins de santé, des endroits où ils peuvent obtenir de l'eau potable qui est sûre et protégée. Donc, tous ces enjeux sont pour nous très préoccupants et on voit ces dynamiques à l'œuvre actuellement."

02 48 Soundbite
Pierre Kraehenbuehl (French – 32"): Des gens qui sont blessés ou effectivement malades ont beaucoup de peine à atteindre tout simplement des points de santé ou les hôpitaux. C'est déjà une thématique en tant que telle et c'est quelque chose de très concret aujourd'hui. L'autre, c'est qu'on a les premiers signes, mais ça on doit encore le documenter un peu davantage, des cas de manque de respect  et à la fois d'attaques contre des installations médicales ou des agressions contre le personnel médical. Et ça c'est quelque chose qui nous préoccupe au plus au point, parce que l'on sait quel impact ça peut avoir en termes de capacité de sauver des vies dans des situations de conflit armé."

03 21 Cutaways end of press conference with Pierre Kraehenbuehl being interviewed by journalists

03 49 Ends

For video footage in broadcast quality of refugees in Liberia, please preview and download newscut "Liberian border towns under strain from refugee influx" on our video newsroom.

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

  • Copyright: ICRC Access All
  • Release year: 31.03.2011
  • Production locations: ICRC Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Running time: 3'49 min
  • Languages available: (Sound) English, French
  • Reference: V-F-CR-F-01088-A