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Ivory Coast Launches Food Assistance Program - 2003-07-11

The reconciliation government in Ivory Coast is launching a food assistance program in areas most affected by the civil war which erupted last year.

Government spokesman Patrick Achi said there is an urgent need for food assistance in western and central Ivory Coast.

Mr. Achi says the government will send 150,000 tons of food products and also seeds and farming equipment to the region by the end of the year.

Aid workers who have recently traveled to western Ivory Coast say humanitarian conditions are worsening there, because of a lack of food and clean water.

They also say French and West African peacekeepers have struggled to contain remaining dissident fighters in the region, mainly Liberian mercenaries who fought for both sides during the Ivorian conflict.

Northern-based rebels and the army, who formally declared the end of the war earlier this month, have also tried to chase the fighters back into Liberia. But some of the mercenaries who have not been paid have stayed behind to continue looting local villages.

At the same time, more than 30,000 Liberians have crossed into Ivory Coast in recent weeks, fleeing their own civil war, and adding to the humanitarian needs in Ivory Coast.