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Abidjan Food Stocks Looted

  • Lisa Schlein

A woman holds bags of rice at a market in Abidjan on April 14, 2011

A woman holds bags of rice at a market in Abidjan on April 14, 2011

The World Food Program reports its warehouse in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, Abidjan has been looted over the past week. WFP says its entire stock has been completely wiped out, leaving tens of thousands of people without food aid.

WFP country director in Ivory Coast, Alain Cordell, says the food stocks cannot be replenished because the port is closed and insecurity discourages transport by road.

On top of that, he tells VOA, people have no cash to buy food, which probably explains the extensive looting that has been going on.

"The problem of Abidjan is given that we have lost all these stocks that we had pre-positioned in this warehouse that has been burnt and lost, we have now to bring the food by airlift in order to be quick," Cordell said. "It could have been possible to bring it by road, but bringing food by road from Mali takes a minimum of two weeks-time to have the contract made before tenders and so on, and then effective transportation and so on takes a bit of time."

Cordell says WFP does not have this time. He says the population is suffering and needs to receive food aid now. The quickest way to do this, he says, is to airlift the food into Abidjan.

Cordell says WFP lost 3,000 metric tons of food, worth about $3 million. This was enough to feed 140,000 people for one month. He says WFP needs to urgently airlift a minimum of 1,000 tons of cereal into Abidjan.

Unfortunately, he says it might take about 10 days before the airlift can begin.

"At that very moment, we will be able to provide this food that will be this time stored in a place that is a kind of safe haven, protected by the military, so it is not looted again," Cordell said. "And we will provide that to our partners, local partners, NGO’s, for instance, to provide that and to distribute that to the IDP’s (Internally Displaced People) in Abidjan. I think that is the best solution for the time being."

Cordell says a minimum of 70,000 people in Abidjan need to be fed and that number climbs to around 240,000 people for the whole country.

He says WFP will need a minimum of $38 million to carry out its humanitarian operations over the next six-months. Cordell expects the crisis in Ivory Coast will go on for a very long time.

He adds he hopes the international community will continue to support the humanitarian needs of the people after the images of devastation and desperation have disappeared from the world’s television screens.