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Access to vulnerable in Côte d'Ivoire focus of UN envoy's upcoming mission to region

Access to vulnerable in Côte d'Ivoire focus of UN envoy's upcoming mission to region

Carolyn McAskie
The United Nations humanitarian envoy for the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire today said that a major focus of her upcoming mission to the country would be to negotiate humanitarian access to vulnerable populations.

At the moment, access was only available to about the southeastern third of the territory, an area controlled by the government, Carolyn McAskie said at a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York. Depending on the security situation, access in the north was sporadic at best. That made tracking the movement of internally displaced persons increasingly more difficult. Access to western areas where the rebels were active remained extremely risky if not impossible.

"Access in the west is virtually non-existent because the security situation there is such that the United Nations can not get in at all," she said, "so I will be seeking to contact the rebels and discuss with them the fact that under international humanitarian law they are obliged to allow the international agencies to go in."

Ms. McAskie is scheduled to arrive in Abidjan on 15 January and remain for three to four weeks, travelling also to Burkina Faso, Liberia, Ghana, Mali and Guinea in a bid to increase efforts in coordinating and strengthening the humanitarian response to the steadily deteriorating situation in the region.

In addition to looking at securing access for relief workers, Ms. McAskie said she will also examine how the United Nations is organized on the ground, particularly whether the right teams are in place and how they are set up to deal with the situation. She noted that the UN's December consolidated appeal for $15.9 million had received very little response. That call will be shortly followed by another appeal for the entire region, as now it was crucial to raise funds to address the needs of neighbouring countries experiencing their own difficulties as a "follow-on" from the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire.

"The economic impact of the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire cannot be underestimated for West African regions," she said. In the long-term, it will mean serious economic difficulties for countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Because the UN was also worried about the effect of the crisis on the Africa Development Bank (ADB), she would also be holding consultations on that issue and report her findings to the Secretary-General, the Security Council as well as to inter-agency colleagues.