Côte d'Ivoire: hoping to live a normal life again
28-07-2011 Operational Update
Thousands of refugees and internally displaced people have been gradually returning to their home areas over the past few months. The Red Cross is stepping up emergency aid for returnees in the west of the country and in the hardest hit neighbourhoods of Abidjan.
Providing urgently needed humanitarian aid
"In the west of the country, the area along the road between Guiglo and Toulepleu was among the places hardest hit by the armed conflict. Before, during and after the clashes, entire villages were destroyed, health-care centres were looted and the supply of clean drinking water was interrupted," said Annette Corbaz, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Guiglo. "We are now witnessing a gradual return of refugees and internally displaced people to their home villages, but they lack everything: health care, drinking water, food and household goods." In cooperation with the Red Cross Society of Côte d'Ivoire, the ICRC is working to meet their diverse needs.
Two mobile clinics have been covering the area between Guiglo and Bloléquin, along the road between Guiglo and Toulepleu, since April. They provide general and pre-natal consultations, bandage wounds, and even transfer patients to medical centres still functioning. Over 6,000 people have used these services since the beginning of June (nearly 15,000 since April). Given the importance of the hospitals in Bloléquin and Toulepleu for the people living in and returning to the area, the ICRC has decided to upgrade both facilities.
To quickly address the interruption in the supply of drinking water, the ICRC and the Ivorian Red Cross have launched a campaign to chlorinate wells and raise awareness about hygiene. So far, over 2,700 wells have been chlorinated and people in some 11,000 households have been informed about basic rules of hygiene. The ICRC and the Ivorian Red Cross have also started a programme to fix hand-operated pumps. To date, 52 pumps in 18 villages along the road from Guiglo to Bloléquin and Péhé have been restored to working order. An assessment of other pumps in the area is under way to determine whether they also need to be refurbished.
In addition to losing their belongings, many people in the area do not have enough food because the crisis and the conflict seriously disrupted farm production. The ICRC therefore distributed rice, beans, cooking oil and salt, and also sleeping mats, clothing, soap, kitchen sets, buckets, feminine hygiene sets, tarpaulins and mosquito nets to more than 30,000 people in 31 villages between Péhé and Bloléquin and elsewhere between 27 June and 8 July.
In the Yopougon neighbourhood of Abidjan, almost 12,000 especially vulnerable people received assistance through a joint programme of the ICRC and the Ivorian Red Cross. "This neighbourhood was particularly hard hit by the conflict and by post-election violence," said Thierry Grobet, an ICRC delegate working in Abidjan. "Lots of people who returned to their homes are living in disastrous conditions. Their houses were destroyed and items essential to their livelihoods were looted or burned."
Reuniting dispersed families: a priority for the ICRC
"My son is back. I'm so terribly happy. What happiness!" exclaimed Adèle Gbato, who was separated from her son Samuel amid the chaos of the post-election crisis. Like many other children, Samuel was forced to flee his village without his parents. He ended up in a refugee camp in Guinea, where he spent the past seven months.
"In a conflict, we register children who have been separated from all members of their families," said Julia Unger, an ICRC delegate. "We take pictures of them and post the photographs in the places the children came from, so that neighbours or friends can recognize them and help us to find their families." In cooperation with the Red Cross Society of Guinea and the ICRC delegation in that country, three children aged between 12 and 14 were reunited last week with their families in Yealeu and Danipleu in Côte d'Ivoire.
The three children had been among the first refugees to arrive in Guinea in January. They fled their villages following a wave of violence. Their families also fled, finding refuge just across the Liberian border. When the children went back to their homes, they didn't find their parents, so they moved on. Like many other children they ended up in the Mount Nimba forest, at the border between Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea, and decided to continue towards Guinea.
Working in cooperation with the ICRC, volunteers of the Red Cross societies of Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia and Guinea gave people separated from other members of their families the opportunity to contact relatives by telephone or by Red Cross message to let them know that they were safe and sound. So far this year, the ICRC and national Red Cross societies have registered over 400 unaccompanied children in Guinea, Liberia, Ghana, Senegal, Togo and Côte d'Ivoire, and have restored contact between 76 children and their families. To date, 18 children have been reunited with their parents in Côte d'Ivoire.
The ICRC has been working in Côte d'Ivoire since it opened an office in Man in 1989. Following the outbreak of crisis in the country in 2002, additional offices were opened in Bouaké, Gagnoa, Guiglo and Korhogo. More than 280 people now work for the ICRC in Côte d'Ivoire.
For further information, please contact:
Kelnor Panglungtshang, ICRC Abidjan, tel: +225 22 40 00 70
Christian Cardon, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 26 or +41 79 251 93 02