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Côte d'Ivoire: as elections approach, ICRC continues to support vulnerable people

26-11-2010 Operational Update

The political climate between the two rounds of Côte d'Ivoire's elections is tense. ICRC activities in the country currently focus on supporting the work of the Red Cross Society of Côte d'Ivoire (Croix-Rouge de Côte d'Ivoire, CRCI) in the fields of assistance to vulnerable persons in general and first aid in particular. In addition, the ICRC continues to work for the protection of detainees, to support the most vulnerable members of society and to promote international humanitarian law (IHL).

Humanitarian situation

Eight years after the armed conflict that divided the country in 2002, Côte d'Ivoire is finally holding elections to choose a president, with the second and final round taking place on 28 November. This is the first time in ten years that Ivorians have been able to vote for a president, and expectations are high.
Since 2002, humanitarian problems affecting the population as a whole, and detainees in particular, have been a cause for concern. "The security situation is relatively calm at the moment," explains Dominique Liengme, the ICRC's head of delegation in Abidjan. "But the people most affected are still waiting for basic services and those who were displaced often need agricultural assistance when they return to their homes. The ICRC is continuing to provide agricultural assistance, to facilitate access to drinking water and to visit detainees."

The ICRC's main activities between July and November 2010

Ensuring the safety of Red Cross volunteers

"Everyone must respect Red Cross volunteers and allow them to work in safety if the wounded and vulnerable are to receive the care and the assistance they need," Liengme points out.
Working together, the ICRC and the CRCI have been operating Red Cross information caravans. Their purpose is to spread information about the Red Cross to the public and the authorities – administrative, traditional and community – so as to smooth the way for any future deployment of first-aiders.
To increase respect for the Red Cross emblem, and to reduce misuse, the CRCI and the ICRC have run joint information workshops for about 100 operators of pharmacies, private clinics and other businesses in the west and south-west of the country.
In addition, 120 CRCI volunteers and 8 local committees have received first-aid training and briefings on malaria, sexually transmissible diseases (including HIV/Aids) and environmental health. As Dominique Liengme points out, "The work of the Red Cross depends on well-trained volunteers."

Helping civilians recover from the conflict

In the west of the country, families who have been displaced since 2002 face enormous difficulties when they return to their homes, as do the communities that receive them. Rice distributed between March and May 2010 helped 4,500 families who had returned to a number of villages in the Dix-Huit Montagnes and Moyen Cavally regions to survive.
Jacques Maradan is in charge of the ICRC's water and sanitation programme in Côte d'Ivoire. As he explains, "Apart from distributing agricultural aid, the things that most directly help people in the west and the north are reducing the risk of illness by promoting hygiene, and making sure people have drinking water."
Some 14,000 people in the central and north-western regions of Vavoua and Sarhala have received information about hygiene as it applies to their rural environment. When heavy rains caused flooding, the ICRC and the CRCI went round chlorinating water sources in the west of the country and in two districts of the capital Abidjan, ensuring that 5,550 people had access to safe water. In addition, a new water point in each of two towns in the region of Moyen Cavally brought water to 1,200 people.
Finally, several hundred women in the central-western and south-western parts of the country who were pregnant or had children under five received a total of over 1,000 mosquito nets impregnated with mosquito repellent.

Food for detainees

On two occasions, the ICRC had to supply emergency rations for detainees in two facilities, on top of the food programmes that were already running.
Ms Liengme explains the situation: "The food situation remains very difficult in most of Côte d'Ivoire's prisons. We are still supplying food to nine places of detention, at the same time as monitoring conditions of detention and raising the awareness of the prison authorities." The ICRC helped with the partial renovation of Dabou Prison and the installation of a rainwater collection system in Divo Prison. A campaign to prevent the spread of disease benefited 9,100 inmates in 10 prisons.
Between July and November, the ICRC visited over 3,000 detainees in almost 30 places of detention. During these visits, the organization followed up on the cases of 31 people individually, most of them security detainees. The organization also enabled 157 inmates to establish or maintain contact with their families, either by phone or via Red Cross messages collected and distributed with the support of CRCI volunteers.

Promoting respect for the law and for humanitarian action

Respect for the law is essential as a means of protecting civilians, the wounded and those who have been detained, so the ICRC promotes respect for the law and supports the authorities in its implementation. Through a range of events, the organization also explains its role, its work and its partnership with the CRCI.
The ICRC has organized (or facilitated):
- 11 awareness-raising sessions involving 1,300 arms bearers (both government forces and armed groups);
- a "train-the-trainers" workshop for 19 persons from the armed and security forces, to promote the incorporation of IHL into the armed forces of Côte d'Ivoire;
- the attendance of two officers at an IHL course abroad;
- three sessions for about 60 members of the political and administrative authorities in three towns in the centre, north and west of the country;
- a public conference in Abidjan for some 30 persons from the Ivorian authorities, embassies and organizations, both national and international, promoting the Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa;
- four workshops attended by 90 journalists and radio presenters, aimed at ensuring broad dissemination of humanitarian rules and respect both for the emblem and for the work of the ICRC;
- 23 workshops at which almost 600 participants from NGOs, the youth sections of political parties, religious movements and traditional leaderships learned about humanitarian principles and basic first aid.

For further information, please contact:
Kelnor Panglungtshang, ICRC Abidjan, tel: +225 09 399 404
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 536 92 50