News / Africa

UN: Ivory Coast Needs More Humanitarian Aid

A worker looks at the stock of medicine in the Pharmacie de la Sante Publique (Public Health Medicine) warehouse in Abidjan, March 17, 2011
A worker looks at the stock of medicine in the Pharmacie de la Sante Publique (Public Health Medicine) warehouse in Abidjan, March 17, 2011

The United Nations says it needs more money to help civilians displaced by Ivory Coast's political crisis as government troops fired mortars into a city market, killing at least 25 people. The Ivory Coast's incumbent president is expected to address the nation about African Union calls that he step down in favor of the internationally-recognized winner of November's vote.

The United Nations says at least 25 people were killed and 40 others wounded when troops loyal to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo fired mortars into a market in the commercial capital Abidjan. The market is in a neighborhood held by fighters loyal to the U.N.-certified winner of the presidential vote, former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara.

Political crisis

More than 430 civilians have now been killed since December as the political crisis escalates. U.N. officials say that violence has sent more than 75,000 refugees across the border into Liberia and displaced another 45,000 civilians in western provinces, where rebels backing Ouattara are fighting government troops still loyal to  Gbagbo.

With more than 300,000 people displaced in Abidjan, the humanitarian coordinator for U.N. operations in Ivory Coast, Ndolamb Ngokwey, says the situation is deteriorating rapidly.

"The humanitarian crisis in Cote d'Ivoire is very serious and it is getting worse. It is getting worse if you consider for example that from December until now, we have about a 10-fold increase in the number of displaced people. The humanitarian crisis is also getting serious and worse because it is actually going beyond the displacement. Beyond displacement we have a wide impact on a wide segment of the population," Ngokwey said.

Ngokwey says U.N. agencies need more money to cope with the growing number of refugees and internally displaced civilians.

"With the increased violence the last 10 days, we are beginning to see more challenges in terms of having access to those vulnerable population and also we are facing a new challenge which is that the social infrastructure which was supposed to respond to the humanitarian crisis, is itself very weak,” Ngokwey said. “And finally, additional funding is needed so that the magnitude and scale of this crisis can be dealt with.”"

Refugees

The first waves of Ivorian refugees are living with Liberian families, but the new arrivals are too many for local communities to absorb say Moustapha Soumare, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Liberia.

“Last week only, in three days, we got more than 40,000 refugees that has come because of the war close to the border and that has changed completely our approach,” Soumare said. “Because that is not [there aren’t] anymore contingency, we have to actually have a kind of response to that. And that's why now we are on the second, really, flash-appeal so that we can really get the resources to support that," Soumare explains.

Humanitarian aid

Without a solution to the political crisis, Ngokwey says the humanitarian crisis will only grow worse. "As long as this situation is not solved, as long as there is a political impasse with the radicalization of positions and an increase in violence even reaching not only the outskirts of Abidjan, but the heart of the city itself, as long as we have this, the impact is the humanitarian crisis,” Ngokwey said. “So as a humanitarian community, this is our concern and we really hope that the international community, in the face of the suffering of the women and children of Cote d'Ivoire, will be able to provide the needed assistance to those people, while at other levels the political issues are being discussed."

Ivory Coast's political issues have been discussed by a host of mediators, most recently African Union heads of state who last week endorsed Ouattara as the country's duly-elected leader.

Ouattara is now offering Gbagbo a national unity government, a truth and reconciliation commission, and unified armed forces in what he says is the incumbent president's last chance to resolve the crisis peacefully.  Gbagbo is expected to make a nationwide address Friday giving his response to calls that he step down.

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