In western Ivory Coast, ground clearing is underway for a new camp for thousands of people displaced by the country’s political violence and turmoil.
The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR), says humanitarian conditions in the region have deteriorated due to a shortage of shelter.
Spokesperson Helene Caux, who’s in Ivory Coast, says, “Right now, we are clearing a site to be able to relieve the Catholic mission in Duekoue, which is an area where most of the displaced people are. You have about 23,000 displaced people in this area. And in total in the west of Cote d’Ivoire, you have almost 39,000 people, who have been displaced since the end of November, actually, following the elections, the presidential elections.”
Once built, the new camp is expected to provide shelter for about 6,000 people.
Caux says the “most vulnerable people” will be brought there first.
“We are also looking for other sites to be able to accommodate more people,” she says, adding, “Of course, you don’t only have people staying in religious institutions. But a lot of people are also staying (with) host families. And it’s also putting a lot of burden on these families, who are usually paying for the food, their condition, the clothes,” she says.
Most of the IDPs (internally displaced persons) in western Ivory Coast are staying with host families who are relatives.
“Some families are hosting up to 25 people in their homes, so it’s quite a burden. And at the same time, of course, the solidarity is quite important for all these people and host families don’t want to kick them out of their homes,” says Caux.
The UNHCR reports “some IDPs in the west have reported physical and sexual violence, as well as arbitrary detention by armed groups acting with impunity. Fear of retaliation combined with the absence of paralysis of the judicial institutions has prevented many people from reporting such abuses.”
“So,” Caux says, “the victims are left very much by themselves and they do not report their abuses.”
Crossing the border
Many Ivoirians have crossed the border into neighboring Liberia.
“In Liberia, the UNHCR is also about to open a camp. You have about 36,000 people, who have crossed over from Cote d’Ivoire. It’s a huge number,” she says.
If the political situation fails to improve, the UNHCR expects more Ivoirians to cross into Liberia. Currently, many displaced Ivoirians have settled very near the border, ready to cross at a moment’s notice.
The UNHCR says “civilians remain traumatized by the recent troubles, which many see as reminiscent of the civil conflict of 2002.”