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New UN Fund Benefits Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast is one the first countries to benefit from a new United Nations emergency fund. The $1 million allocated to the Abidjan office will go towards providing food, water and protection for farmers in the volatile west of the divided country.

The Central Emergency Response Fund will provide immediate funding for humanitarian aid in extreme crisis situations. Some $500 million are expected for the fund, of which about half has been pledged.

Ivory Coast has received nearly a $1 million. The only other area to receive similar assistance, so far, is the drought-stricken Horn of Africa and Kenya region.

In Ivory Coast, U.N. agencies and non-governmental organizations will provide 14,000 displaced farmers and their families around the western town, Guiglo, with food, water and protection. The U.N. emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, who recently visited Ivory Coast, says thousands of lives are in danger. He says the humanitarian crisis is largely caused by chronic insecurity.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Ivory Coast, Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, was proud to have led his team to winning the funding ahead of other problem areas around the world.

"Our requests were well thought-out and well prepared. I think it is a credit to my colleagues. They were very quick. They were fast enough to submit the request and we got the green light from New York. That's the name of the game," said Dieye. "I'm not discounting what is happening elsewhere. It is a lesson for my colleagues in other places that when you face an emergency, you have to move fast."

The west of Ivory Coast has not been considered safe by the U.N., ever since government supporters stormed the UN peacekeeping base in Guiglo in January. The outbreak was a reaction to what youths supporting President Laurent Gbagbo called interference by the U.N. in the conflict between the government and northern rebels that split the country in 2002.

Panicked peacekeepers killed several people in the Guiglo attack and then fled their base. U.N. humanitarian workers also withdrew from the area.

U.N. humanitarian coordinator Dieye says they have a duty to return.

"We cannot be out of it even though our assessment is that there is still a security vacuum in the west," said Dieye. "But they are the neediest there. Even though security was not guaranteed, we did not stop our support to the people. But we want to move to a bigger scale and a higher speed. For that to happen, we need security."

Although food and water is to be provided immediately, U.N. staff will only return to the western base in Duekoue gradually. The U.N. mission in Ivory Coast has also indicated it will send its peacekeepers back. More than 6,000 U.N. troops and a 4,000-strong French rapid reaction force are on the ground. They often have to deal with angry protesters, as well as armed militias and a confrontational army.