Côte dIvoire UN steps up humanitarian aid to ease widespread suffering

The humanitarian crisis stemming from the fighting that ensued after Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to Alassane Ouattara, the winner of the UN-certified presidential run-off election last November, continues despite Mr. Gbagbo’s surrender earlier this week.Although the violence appears to have ended, ethnic tensions are still high and many people remain in hiding in the bush, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today, voicing alarm at the living conditions of some 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in western Côte d’Ivoire.“We believe that major reconciliation efforts will be needed for the IDPs and Ivorian refugees in neighbouring countries to be able to return home in safety and dignity,” UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic told a news conference in Geneva. Insecurity prevented access to these populations during the over four months of post-election unrest and medical workers had deserted the area, he noted. UNHCR, which is working to increase its presence in western Côte d’Ivoire, has so far distributed relief items to 10,000 IDPs in the area and is registering and profiling the displaced in Duékoué to better understand their needs and return intentions.The agency and its partners are also providing support to Ivorian refugees in Liberia, which now hosts more than 150,000 of them. Another 13,000 Ivorians have fled to other countries in West Africa.The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is airlifting over 60 tons of medical, nutrition, education and water and sanitation supplies to Côte d’Ivoire. Medical kits will allow health workers to treat more than 40,000 patients for the next three months.“It remains difficult for our teams to circulate in Abidjan but UNICEF is slowly but steadily reaching out to the people and deliver much-needed aid,” said Hervé Ludovic de Lys, UNICEF Designated Representative in Côte d’Ivoire. “We will resume mass vaccination campaigns as soon as security allows it.”A chartered cargo plane is set to reach Abidjan tomorrow with 32 tons of relief supplies, the agency said in a news release. In addition, two chartered planes will each bring 15 tons of supplies to the town of Man in the west of the country and Bouaké in the centre to assist people in need in these areas. Given the threat of the spread of deadly epidemics, UNICEF and its partners are rushing to distribute water treatment products to the affected areas. The agency has distributed essential drugs for an initial 8,000 patients in Abidjan and biscuits to treat children suffering from malnutrition. UNICEF is concerned about the state of children who were victims or who witnessed extreme violence and will spearhead efforts to provide them with psychosocial support while assessing their other needs. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it had managed to get some trucks into Côte d’Ivoire from Burkina Faso, and food distributions were now starting in a number of communities to provide high-energy biscuits.WFP spokesperson Emilia Casella told reporters that there is a real need to focus on social cohesion and reconciliation, “which should pave the way for people to get back to normal life, working in the fields and sending their children to school.”Meanwhile, a team of health officials from the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived to assess the situation in Abidjan and other parts of the country, where many hospitals and health centres remain closed and there is a lack of medical staff and supplies. WHO has transported six tons of medicines from neighbouring Burkina Faso and four tons from Ghana to parts of Côte d’Ivoire, and organized the distribution of supplies that recently arrived in the country. Earlier this week UN agencies and their partners appealed for $160 million to scale up aid to affected populations inside Côte d’Ivoire. The amount represents a five-fold increase over the $32 million initially sought in January at the onset of the humanitarian crisis.Cote 15 April 2011United Nations agencies are stepping up their efforts to ease the suffering of civilians in Côte d’Ivoire who bore the brunt of the post-election crisis that was marked by ethnic tensions, human rights violations and the displacement of an estimated one million people. read more

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