Article: What Do Côte D’Ivoire’s Displaced Populations Face?

[Cross-linked at Future Challenges Organization]

Macrotrends: [Migration + Pandemics + Globalization + Security & Anti-Terror Policy]

According to the United Nations, the conflict in Côte D‘Ivoire has displaced an estimated one million Ivorians. This is the aftermath of the November 28th election. Allasane Ouatarra is recognized by both the United Nations and the African Union as the winner, but the incumbent President, Laurent Gbagbo refuses to cede power, alleging voter fraud. The climate has devolved into one of violence. On 3 March, 2011, six women were shot by the Ivorian government‘s forces while peacefully participating in an all-women protest against Gbagbo‘s continued rule. On 17 March, 2011, pro-Gbagbo forces fired mortars into a market in the Abobo region of Abidjan, killing between twenty-five and thirty, injuring at least sixty. Residents in Abidjan‘s shantytowns live in fear of being harassed by militias claiming to be looking for Pro-Outtara „rebels.“

The events in Abidjan are a microcosm of the conflict in the country as a whole. Côte D‘Ivoire is flanked by Ghana to the east and Liberia to the west. The fighting has displaced an estimated 4 percent of the nation‘s population- about 100,000 of whom are fleeing westward to Liberia. There are also significant, untold numbers of Ivorian refugees fleeing eastward across the Ivorian-Ghanaian border. Estimates from the Ghana Refugee Board suggest that, as of early March, about 2,000 Ivorian refugees have fled to Ghana.

Liberia is recovering from a 14-year civil war that ended in 2003. Liberian orphans and child soldiers still remain a vulnerable group. Liberia‘s national security could be further undermined by the fact that the influx of Ivorian refugees could mask the trafficking of weapons in and out of Liberia. Considering the fact that many Liberian refugees and asylum seekers were turned away at Côte D‘Ivoire‘s borders during the first and second Liberian Civil Wars, the influx of Liberian refugees into Liberia stirs memories among Liberia‘s older generation. Additionally, the political upheaval is affecting the 24,000 Liberian refugees who are residing in Côte D‘Ivoire. Among some leaders in the international community at large, there are fears that the fighting will spill over into Liberia.

MEDICAL CARE

Ivorian refugees already face limited access to medical care and medical supplies due to the conflict. At present, only one hospital in Abidjan‘s Abobo district is still functioning normally, and it serves two million residents.Médecins Sans Frontière (MSF) has been working with this hospital to provide emergency care to patients. However, one of the major impediments to medical care is fear of leaving the relative safety of one‘s home. Many patients have come in with gunshot and knife wounds in addition to injuries sustained from beatings at various checkpoints within Abidjan. Also, lack of means of transportation is another hindrance to medical care.

FOOD SECURITY

In addition, regional food security is diminished. Mali and Burkina Faso‘s food security depend on exports from Côte D‘Ivoire‘s agricultural and energy sector. Additionally, due to the conflict, imports of wheat, rice and edible oils are stifled- particularly to southern Côte D‘Ivoire. The 5 million residents of Côte D‘Ivoire‘s capital, Abidjan, face greater difficulties in procuring fresh foods at the local markets due to the de facto north-south division of the country. The influx of refugees also places additional stress on food and water supplies at the Liberian-Ivorian border. In light of this, the United States has pledged $12 million in food aid to Côte D‘Ivoire and an additional $7.5 million in food aid to Ivorian refugees in Liberia. The United Kingdom has pledged humanitarian aid to help Ivorian refugees in Liberia:

  • Providing 15,000 refugees with food, shelter and basic services in camps and transit centres.
  • Assisting an estimated 5,000 people living in border villages who have been overwhelmed by the refugee influx with food, water and sanitation.
  • Protect 18,000 children and women from abuse, violence and exploitation.

In Côte D‘Ivoire, Britain is planning to provide humanitarian aid to provide the means for:

  • Feeding 25,000 displaced men, women and children for six months.
  • Housing 15,000 people (tents)
  • Treating 10,000 children and adults for malnutrition.
  • Helping 3,000 West African nationals return to their home country.

In addition to shelter, fresh water, and food, refugee populations will require sanitation facilities and access to emergency medical care in order to stem the spread of disease. In Liberia, where the infrastructure is still developing, the nearest medical facility could be an four-hour walk away.

The aid for child refugees will be particularly important to preventing the recruitment of child soldiers. In times of upheaval and conflict, normal patterns are disrupted. Families are displaced and often dispersed and children are pulled out of school. Without the protective structure of a cohesive family unit, children are susceptible to being trafficked as child soldiers by militias and mercenaries. There are already fears of mercenaries recruiting at the Liberian-Ivorian border, as well as weapons trafficking across the borders.

The refugees and internally-displaced people within and without Côte D‘Ivoire pose a specific challenge to west Africa. Ghana and Liberia have already made preparations to offer refuge to displaced Ivorians, but as we go forward, the needs of refugee populations will need to be more fully addressed. These needs include: emergency and preventative medical care, food, potable water, shelter, sanitation, and education for primary-school children. As we approach resolution of the Gbagbo-Outtara power struggle, repatriation and reclamation of lost property will be of paramount importance.

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