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

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