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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid