14 March 2011
Humanitarian conditions in Ivory Coast are deteriorating rapidly as the political crisis worsens, according to Tearfund staff.
Their assessment comes as the UN predicts the instability could lead to 150,000 refugees moving into neighbouring Liberia by June.
The ongoing dispute between incumbent president Laurent Ghagbo and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara over who won last November’s elections is no nearer being resolved, despite regional and international diplomatic efforts.
Political polarisation has led to violence which has been steadily escalating and has claimed at least 392 lives since mid-December, according to the UN.
A high-ranking UN official warned that human rights violations, including rapes, abductions and killings, are increasing, with at least 27 people killed in just the last week.
The effect of the insecurity is that partners working with Tearfund are constantly having to assess whether they can continue their day-to-day development work.
‘The situation is deteriorating fast in the western parts of the country,’ said Bapatope Akinwande, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Ivory Coast. ‘There is a lot of population movement and confusion.
‘Parts of the city of Abidjan are becoming a war zone, with 200,000 people displaced there alone.’
More than 77,000 Ivorians have fled to neighbouring Liberia, says Tearfund’s Daniel Breneman, who is based there.
‘There’s fighting along the border and Liberians tell us they’ve heard the use of rocket-propelled grenades and heavy artillery,’ said Daniel.
‘The number of refugees is going up and the estimates from UNHCR are that there will be 150,000 by the end of June, with potentially another 100,000 on top of that.
‘Members of host communities are sharing food with refugees but shortages are becoming an issue.’
Tearfund partner Equip is working in Liberia to help refugees by providing health screening for the new arrivals.
In Ivory Coast, a consortium of six Tearfund partners is drawing up plans to provide water, sanitation and hygiene assistance and also to offer psycho-social help.
Many partners, as well as local churches, are already opening their premises and compounds to offer sanctuary to people fleeing intimidation and unrest.