News / Africa

Western Ivory Coast Fighting Strands Thousands

Youth supporting Laurent Gbagbo receive military style training in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 23, 2011
Youth supporting Laurent Gbagbo receive military style training in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 23, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
  • De Capua interview with Jemini Pandya of IOM

  • De Capua interview with Astrid Sletten of Norwegian Refugee Council

Joe DeCapua

As fighting and violence spread in Ivory Coast, areas of safe haven are shrinking. Humanitarian agencies are finding it harder to provide aid or help frightened civilians evacuate to neighboring countries.

Many displaced people are now stranded in the west of the country, says Jemini Pandya, spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration.

“Conflict between rival forces has now actually reached the western town of Guiglo, where we used to have an operational presence up until Tuesday of this week, when we had to evacuate our staff because of the fighting,” she says.

Seeking shelter where there is none

“About 4,000 people have now sought refuge in a former camp for the internally displaced that IOM used to manage until it closed in 2008.  What we know so far is that those people who have gone to this area are mainly Burkinabes, but also Malians, Ghanaians, as well as Ivoirians.  And the site at the moment is an empty one, because after the camp was closed everything had to be razed to the ground,” she says.

Pandya says that means no food, water, shelter or medical care.

“What’s particularly worrying,” she says, “is that now the rainy season has started. So if they’ve got no way of protecting themselves, then they’re going to be out there in the full face of the elements.”

Unable to reach the displaced at the former camp, the IOM has asked the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) for help.  Some troops are reported on their way to offer some protection.

Meanwhile, in Abidjan…

The situation isn’t getting any better in the commercial capital, either.

“The fighting continues to spread. We noticed some days ago that the city was rapidly emptying. People were just grabbing hold of whatever transport they could find in order to get out of the town,” she says.

The IOM is having difficulty getting an exact figure on the number of displaced in Abidjan. An earlier estimate put the figure at between 200,000 and 300,000.

“We still cannot access these populations,” she says. “What we do know is that there are about 19,000 people who are currently displaced in churches, schools and other buildings, with another 60,000 people staying in host families. But we know for a fact that the level of displacement is much, much greater than that. We just can’t provide a more definitive figure on that.”

With so many people trying to leave the city, the IOM is finding fewer available vehicles to use in its own evacuation program for migrant workers.

“IOM has now been asked to help return at least 35,000 Ghanaians, Malians, Senegalese, Burkinabes, as well as the Mauritanians, by their governments or community groups. And we are getting more requests for assistance coming on a daily basis,” she says.

The IOM is again urgently appealing to donors for immediate funds for its evacuation efforts.

Going to Ghana

Up until last week, few refugees had crossed the border into Ghana. Not anymore.

Pandya says, “Out of the nearly 2,000 Ivorian refugees who are now in Ghana, more than 1,400 arrived in this one week alone.”

The border crossing at Takoradi is overcrowded.  The reception and transit center, which has a capacity of 200 to 300 people, is jammed with 800.

Many French-speaking migrants in Ghana say they want to travel on to Togo, which is also a Francophone country. Most migrants arriving in Ghana do not have any documents and their embassies may a day’s drive away in Accra.

Liberia

The Liberian border is a volatile one, with much fighting between forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, who the U.N. says lost the presidential election, and Alassane Ouattara, who the international community says won. Gbagbo has refused to step down.

The Norwegian Refugee Council is one of the many agencies helping the Ivoirians who’ve crossed the border, especially to Nimba County. Their exact numbers may be in question.

Country Director Astrid Sletten says, “In Nimba County, approximately 40,000 crossed…in the period beginning in December until about the 24th of February. After that there was a huge influx where another 45,000, give or take, crossed since the 25th of February.”

There’s a reason the agency has before and after dates.

“We suspect a lot of the cases registered after the 24th of February are already registered and we need to reconcile the data bases in order to determine how many refugees are actually in Nimba County as of now. But it’s [at a] minimum in the neighborhood of about 50,000.

Pro and con

There are indications of who has the upper hand in fighting along the border.  Sletten says pro-Ouattara refugees are feeling more comfortable about returning home. But not so pro-Gbagbo refugees.

“On the other side of the border it’s very clearly Forces Nouvelles who’s in control, pro-Ouattara people. So, in fact, we see a very clear trend that the pro-Gbagbo people are not feeling safe even in the border areas. So, they are the ones opting to move to the camps,” she says.

Most of the refugees now crossing into Liberia are not heading for Nimba County, but rather for Grand Gedeh County. There’s fighting along that part of the border area forcing some 16,000 people to cross in recent days.

Many of the late arrivals are in worse condition than their predecessors because they’ve been on the run.  Some have been treated for gunshot wounds. There are also reports of armed men following the refugees and attacking them. The identity of the gunmen is unknown

Also, more Ivoirian children are arriving malnourished.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid