News / Africa

    Relief, Rights Groups Say Ivory Coast Civilians in Harm's Way

    People walk with their belongings towards a railway station as they leave Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 29, 2010
    People walk with their belongings towards a railway station as they leave Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 29, 2010
    Julia Ritchey

    Relief officials are calling on both sides to avoid civilian casualties in the fight for control of Abidjan as the political crisis in Ivory Coast has already displaced nearly one million people.

    Aid agencies and rights organizations are warning of a deteriorating humanitarian situation as fighting between forces loyal to Ivory Coast's rival presidents battle in the streets of the commercial capital Abidjan.

    The United Nations has said between 700,000 and one million have already fled the fighting, mostly from Abidjan, and hundreds have been killed in fighting since the country's contentious November presidential elections.

    The U.N. Human Rights office said Friday it was alarmed by unconfirmed reports of looting, extortion, abduction and ill-treatment of civilians committed by fighters loyal to internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara who are fighting to unseat incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo.

    A spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, says most of the reports are coming from western Ivory Coast where fighters were advancing toward the capital.

    “Initially, most of the abuses, if not all the abuses, were by the forces in support of Laurent Gbgabgo - former president - but recently there's been an increase of retaliatory attacks by people on the other side, including a slightly mysterious group called the Invisible Commandos who've been operating against Gbagbo," said Colville.

    Colville warned that atrocities committed on either side will be investigated by the International Criminal Court and Human Rights Council.

    “We were reminding people on both sides, but I would say particularly on the side of President Ouattara, because these are the forces that are moving into Abidjan, that the commission of inquiry will interview both sides, not just one side," he said. "So there will be consequences if people abuse civilians, no matter which side they're on.”

    The International Committee of the Red Cross said civilians are trapped by the fighting and can't get access to food, water or medicine.

    Speaking at a news conference, head of operations Peter Kraehenbuehl said: "We have experience from many contexts of the region in both Liberia and Sierra Leone and also from Ivory Coast in previous periods of how suddenly a situation can become very unpredictable and violent for civilians that are living in very densely populated areas and where suddenly two parties use heavy weaponry in the middle of these densely populated areas and civilians get caught up in this, they get cut off from supplies, from access to health care."

    Kraehenbuehl added that a majority of the refugees are constantly on the move, which has made it difficult to organize relief.  The Red Cross issued a plea for an additional $16 million to help trapped civilians and refugees pouring over the Liberian border. It says it has already distributed emergency supplies to 20,000 displaced people.

    Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders issued similar statements of concern and said civilians must be allowed access to medical care.

    Doctors Without Borders has treated 450 patients since March, including several hundred in western Ivory Coast. At the only health center still operating in the north of Abidjan, 15  gunshot victims were treated Thursday.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.