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UN Seeks $60 Million to Help Ivory Coast Refugees - 2003-11-19

United Nations relief agencies are asking for $60 million next year to help civilians affected by the civil war in Ivory Coast. Both rebels and the Ivorian army have threatened to resume fighting for control of the world's leading cocoa producing nation.

The appeal was made Wednesday in Guiglo, a town in western Ivory Coast, which hosts one refugee camp and two transit centers for displaced people.

The coordinator of U.N. relief programs in Ivory Coast, Abdoulaye Dieye, says the money is needed to avert a humanitarian crisis next year.

Mr. Dieye said one million civilians have been made vulnerable by the civil war, which erupted in September of last year. Many have fled northern rebel-held areas, where administrative and social services are no longer operational.

Mr. Dieye says some of the money requested will also go to affected civilians in neighboring Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana. Many immigrant workers had to flee cocoa and coffee plantations in Ivory Coast because of persecution against foreigners when fighting broke out.

For 2003, U.N. agencies asked for $90 million in aid money for civilians affected by the war, but received only $35 million from donors.

The head of an association for displaced people in Guiglo, Gaston Tehe, says most aid has stopped since March, making life in transit centers very difficult.

Mr. Tehe says displaced people need food, clothes, medical aid and school books. He says the suffering is real and getting worse.

The leader of an association of immigrant workers from Burkina Faso said Wednesday their main goal is to be able to return to work.

Wednesday's appeal comes after both rebels and Ivorian army officials threatened to renew fighting if a French-brokered peace plan continues to collapse. Rebels are refusing to disarm, accusing President Laurent Gbagbo of blocking implementation of the deal. They pulled out of a power-sharing government in September.

Mediators from the Economic Community of West African States are meeting with both sides, trying to get the rebels back into the power-sharing government. But aid officials say the refugees and displaced people continue to need help now while the politicians argue about the future.