Press Release: Crisis deepens in Ivory Coast causing dire conditions and mass displacement
Ivory Coast/Liberia — While the world’s attention is focused on Japan and North Africa, violence and chaos in Ivory Coast are worsening by the day—causing an escalating humanitarian emergency, mass internal displacement and an exodus of refugees into Liberia.
“The crisis here is rapidly deteriorating,” says Louis Falcy, who oversees International Rescue Committee (IRC) aid programs in Ivory Coast. “In addition to ongoing clashes and attacks on civilians, we’re seeing health clinics, schools and businesses close as people flee. Supplies of food, water and electricity are diminishing and other vital services are collapsing. The situation is having a dire impact on millions of people.”
An estimated 400,000 Ivorians have been displaced in and around the capital, Abidjan, and in volatile western districts since late November when a disputed presidential election sparked violence and unrest.
In Danané, which borders Liberia, more than 6,000 people have sought refuge from the violence in schools and other repurposed buildings. The IRC has installed latrines, showers, water taps and a water bladder at one of several sites being set up for displaced families. These temporary shelters should help ease the burden on overstretched host communities that are also struggling to cope with the crisis.
Working with partners in Danané and Man, another destination for the displaced, IRC teams have launched educational and recreational programs for displaced children and are also identifying and tracing the families of separated minors. Child protection programs will soon be expanded to Duékoué, which has been hard hit by the crisis.
In Duékoué and other turbulent areas in the west, 45 peace committees set up by the IRC over the past five years are actively working to ease rising tensions and prevent further violence and displacement.
An IRC-supported network of medical professionals, counselors and women’s groups that aid survivors of sexual violence and abuse in all of these districts have seen a steady rise in the number of women seeking assistance: 21 women in December, 53 in January and 85 in February. The IRC team suspects they represent a small fraction of actual victims, as many are too afraid to come forward.
Flaring violence in Ivory Coast over the past two weeks sparked a new wave of refugees into Liberia, nearly doubling the refugee population there from an estimated 40,000 to at least 70,000.
“The influx into Nimba County is straining the meager resources of border villages doing their utmost to absorb and assist the newcomers,” says Leda Tyrrell, the IRC’s emergency coordinator in Liberia.
The IRC has two mobile medical teams operating clinics along the border for both refugees and local villagers.
“Our mobile clinics treated nearly 900 patients in the past week and report a high incidence of malaria, as well as many cases of respiratory infections and diarrhea,” says Tyrrell.
A third IRC medical team is overseeing screenings, treatment and vaccinations at Karnplay One, a transit center where refugees are registered and offered food and temporary shelter before placement in host villages or camps. The IRC team there is arranging for special assistance for vulnerable refugees, like pregnant women and unaccompanied minors, and has started educational and recreational activities for children at the site, as well as in six communities hosting refugees.
Tyrrel says the IRC is coordinating with partner groups to prepare for new waves of refugees and will respond to evolving humanitarian needs with expanded medical services and programs for vulnerable children.
Melisssa Winkler (New York)
+1 212-551-0972 / +1 646 734 0305
Stefano Gelmini (London)
+44 207 692 2739
NOTE TO EDITORS: For more information, interviews or field visits, contact Melissa Winkler, +1 646 734 0305 or Stefano Gelmini, +44 207 692 2739.
About the International Rescue Committee: A global leader in humanitarian assistance, the International Rescue Committee works in over 40 countries offering help and hope to refugees and others uprooted by conflict and oppression. During crises, IRC teams provide health care, shelter, clean water, sanitation, learning programs for children and special aid for women. As emergencies subside, the IRC stays to revive livelihoods and help shattered communities recover and rebuild. The IRC also helps resettle thousands of refugees admitted into the United States each year in and around 22 US cities. A tireless advocate for the most vulnerable, the IRC is committed to restoring hope, dignity and opportunity.
The IRC is a leading humanitarian aid organization in West Africa. Programs in Ivory Coast began in 2003 to respond to the needs of tens of thousands of people displaced by civil unrest in Ivory Coast and Liberia. Today, the IRC reaches more than one million Ivorian people through its sanitation, water, medical, education, women’s protection and economic recovery programs. The IRC launched emergency operations in Liberia in 1996, providing extensive assistance for war-impacted families. The IRC now focuses on post-war recovery, improving health and education services, reintegrating returning refugees, former child soldiers and other ex-combatants, preventing sexual violence and aiding survivors, and providing job training and other economic opportunities. For more information, visit www.rescue.org