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

    Video Russia's Expat Community Shrinking

    Russia's troubled economy, tensions with West have led hundreds of thousands of foreigners to leave for better opportunities

    Accelerating the Push Against Islamic State: What Will Work?

    Experts stress need to step up military action, address root causes of Muslims' disaffection, counter IS social media messages in a massive way

    Experts: N. Korean Abductions Sought to Halt Brain Drain

    Pyongyang abducted about 3,800 South Koreans and more than a dozen Japanese nationals in late 1970s

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    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 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 Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    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 Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    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.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.