Population displacement, humanitarian crisis continues in Côte d'Ivoire, UN reports

Population displacement, humanitarian crisis continues in Côte d'Ivoire, UN reports

The movement of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Côte d'Ivoire is continuing and increasing in scope, according to an update from the United Nations released today in New York.

Fighting in the west of the country has driven "many thousands" of IDPs from the Danané and Man regions towards Guiglo, one of the last safe havens in western Côte d'Ivoire, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The agency estimated that the camp population of Guiglo is between 5,000 and 6,000, up from about 4,000 since the beginning of the outbreak of violence in late November.

"Access to the western part of the country remains fairly unpredictable and nearly impossible due to rebel presence and sporadic fighting," the update warned. "This lack of access is making it increasingly difficult to get aid to the affected populations and help relocate trapped refugees and other IDPs."

Since the beginning of the crisis on 19 September, escalating clashes between government and rebel forces have caused some 100,000 people to flee the country and have slowed economic trade in what is already one of the world's poorest areas. Of particular concern is the plight of the Liberian refugees in the west who are viewed by some groups as a party to the conflict.

An estimated 44,000 people have crossed into Liberia since the fighting spread to the west two weeks ago. The majority - some 29,000 - are Liberians returning home, while the remaining 15,000 are Ivorians seeking refuge in the conflict-torn neighbouring country. Ten thousand refugees have fled to Mali, 35,000 to Burkina Faso and almost 1,600 to Guinea. Côte d'Ivoire had sheltered 70,000 Liberian and 3,000 Sierra Leonean refugees for years.

In other developments, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) announced "all efforts to control the AIDS epidemic in rebel-held territories, including prevention, medical and psychological initiatives are currently blocked." The agency also warned that due to the crisis, HIV infection rates in Côte d'Ivoire could rise from the current estimated 10 per cent of the population to as high as 30 per cent in the next year alone.