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In Ivory Coast, Thousands of Internally Displaced People to Return Home

The International Organization for Migration works with other groups to help more than 45,000 people in western Ivory Coast return to their communities

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William Eagle

The International Organization on Migration [iom] has started to help resettle Internally Displaced Persons [idps] in western Ivory Coast. Among those affected are 45,000 people in the towns of Zouen Hounien, Bin-Houye and Blolequin. They are part of an estimated 150,000 people who fled their homes during post-election violence.

Many fear reprisals from armed groups. The IOM is working with U.N. agencies to help guarantee security in the returnees’ home regions.

In Ivory Coast, Thousands of Internally Displaced People to Return Home
In Ivory Coast, Thousands of Internally Displaced People to Return Home

Together, said Senior Operations Officer David Coomber, the IOM and its partners will carry out assessment missions to determine whether it’s safe for a displaced person or family to go home.

“Those who feel they want to return, no one is going to be coerced,” he said. “Before we can return any IDP, we have to ensure the level of security is appropriate and the cohabitation with neighbors will also be conducive for their return.”

The IOM and its partners also try to help the IDPs return to their former work so they can “pick up where they left off.”

Seasonal change

With approaching rainy season, Coomber says, there’s an effort to return those who want to tend to their crops. The IOM is working to identify appropriate routes for the lightweight trucks that will take them home.

“They are farmers, and that’s where they earn their livelihoods. It is a big loss [for them]…. Everyone might get U.N. humanitarian assistance but most prefer earning their own [money]. They want to return to farming, and others want to go back to school.”

Relieving congestion

The IOM is also working to identify a site for a new camp to help relieve overcrowding at one in the town of Duekoue, which holds 27,000 displaced people.

“Dekoue is actually not a camp established for IDPs per se,” Coomber explained, “but is a Catholic mission, which, through its] generosity, was able to accommodate this large number of people. With all the problems of sanitation, care, food, fear of an outbreak of an epidemic, it would be better to decongest this particular center as quickly as possible.”

By late April, more than 320,000 people crossed into neighboring countries, including 150,000 Ivorians who went to Liberia. The IOM says lately there’s been a drop in the number of IDPs wishing to go to Ghana. In mid to late April, more than 130 people were crossing the border into Ghana every day.

The IOM has appealed for U.S. $41.6 million to provide urgently needed aid for the IDPs. So far, it has received nearly U.S 2 million from the U.S. government’s Bureau of Population Refugee and Migration, the U.N.’s Central Emergency Response Fund and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

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