News / Africa

Ivory Coast: Getting Out Alive

Refugees, who fled the post-election instability in Ivory Coast, wait to be registered at a camp in Liberia
Refugees, who fled the post-election instability in Ivory Coast, wait to be registered at a camp in Liberia


Joe DeCapua

The rising violence in Ivory Coast means more people are trying to get out of the country. It’s estimated the number of displaced within Ivory Coast and refugees in neighboring countries is between 300,000 and 400,000 people.

The International Office for Migration [IOM] is helping the displaced find safe haven. Spokesperson Jemini Pandya says, “There’s been very large-scale displacement within Abidjan since fighting really increased a few weeks ago. It’s extremely difficult to be able to go and assess the real scale of the displacement because the security conditions are too bad and also because of the targeting of humanitarian aid workers.”

But she adds, “One thing that our staff on the ground in Abidjan are saying is that the city is rapidly emptying, [with people] finding any way they can to get out and escape the violence. They’re leaving on public buses, vans, cars, taxis – anything they can find basically to reach their home villages.”

Conditions have also worsened for civilians in western Ivory Coast.

“IOM has now had to also evacuate its remaining staff… in the west, where there’s been significant internal displacement… because of the conflict,” says Pandya.

Asking for help

Mali, Burkina Faso, Liberia and Mauritania have all asked the IOM for help in evacuating their nationals from Ivory Coast.

“The requests from Mali, Liberia and Burkina Faso came actually at the start of the year, when the crisis already had reared its head. It had been going for some few weeks and they had put in a formal request then,” she says.

“We are also working with the neighboring governments [in] Guinea and Ghana, as well, to help in the reception and reintegration of those people who have already left Cote d’Ivoire and crossed their borders. But it doesn’t mean to say that IOM will not be also asked by these other countries to also help their nationals return home,” she says.

Most recently, the IOM has been evacuating hundreds of Mauritanians from Abidjan at the request of their government.

“The first IOM convoy… left last Friday and they reached Bamako in Mali on Sunday, despite many, many roadblocks and insecurity along the route. So, now we’re evacuating, hopefully, either today or tomorrow, another 470 Mauritanians. But we also are aware that there are at least 650 more Mauritanians, who are… registered with us to be returned home, who will also need evacuation assistance,” says Pandya.

Mali has now informed the IOM that 20,000 of its citizens, who are migrant workers in Abidjan, need help in leaving the city.

“Now among them,” she says, "is a priority group of about 100 women and children who arrived at the embassy over the weekend urgently asking for us to help them go home. And we’ve also been referred 800 Burkinabe migrants who need help to go back home.”

Pandya says this may only be the beginning of requests to help foreigners leave Ivory Coast. “We have to be able to respond to these requests as soon as possible,” she says.

All this costs money

Does IOM have the resources it needs to meet all the requests for evacuations? Pandya says, “The answer is definitely no. It requires an awful lot of financial resources as well to be able to carry out evacuations, whether it’s by land or by air. And we have had very minimal response to an initial appeal we put out in January. A very modest figure of three and a half million [dollars] is what we asked for then.”

IOM says it has received just over one million dollars so far, most of it from the U.S. government. A revised appeal is expected within a few days requesting a higher amount due to the worsening situation in Ivory Coast.

Across the border

In neighboring Liberia, it’s estimated there are between 70,000 and 90,000 Ivorian refugees. Tuesday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, visited the country, including Nimba County, where most of the Ivoirians are located. UNHCR has set up several camps for them.

Oxfam is one of many aid agencies in Liberia. Spokesman Olivier Germain says it’s focusing on providing clean water and sanitation. A week ago, it brought in enough emergency supplies for about 70,000 people.

Those supplies are being transported to the bordering counties with Ivory Coast to be able to respond to the need and provide basic water and sanitation services to the refugees in the camps and the centers being set up there.

Oxfam, like the IOM, is appealing to donors to contribute more money to deal with the crisis.

Germain says, “We’re also encouraging UNHCR and other partners to provide necessary transport to move the refugees… along the border and… those who want to move further inland to a safer location, where the humanitarian agencies can provide more sustainable services in terms of shelter, water, sanitation and food.”

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs