Clashes in west worsening humanitarian situation in Côte d'Ivoire, UN says
Clashes in the western part of the country and recent violations of the ceasefire in the north have forced an estimated 400,000 persons in the central and northern regions to flee south, according to an update issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Tracking the movement of the displaced remains difficult, OCHA said. While most currently seek refuge with families and relatives, as more people flee, sites will eventually need to be established to provide them with humanitarian assistance. Currently, access to people in central and northern rebel-held areas has been relatively good, although reaching the western areas where rebels are active remains extremely risky if not impossible.
The western region is host to more than 60,000 refugees from the war in neighbouring Liberia, OCHA said, warning that they are at great risk of being targeted by Liberian mercenaries fighting with rebel forces since they belong to the Krahn ethnic group, which is perceived as the enemy to the current Liberian government. There are also reports of Liberian refugees being recruited by both the Ivorian regular army and rebel groups.
OCHA emphasized that the key humanitarian needs are currently in the health sector. Medicines, medical equipment and the retention of medical staff in and around the war zones remain in a critical state despite the efforts of medical organizations. Hospitals in rebel-held areas are depleted of supplies and of staff. Food aid is needed in cities such as Bouaké and for displaced persons on the move in Daloa and Duekoue, and Yamoussoukro. Moreover, the food situation is expected to deteriorate as the next harvest is expected by mid-March and will certainly be disrupted.