The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called for a major humanitarian response in Ivory Coast this week, as conditions continue to worsen in the war-torn region.
U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos stated in a press release, "There can be no peace and security in West Africa if there is no peace and security in Côte d'Ivoire. The social, economic, and humanitarian consequences of the Ivorian crisis will be overwhelming unless we give the country the support it needs."
The nation plunged into a tense political crisis in November after the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to concede electoral defeat to his challenger, Alassane Ouattara -- recognized by the international community as the country's president.
In the ensuing months, the people of Ivory Coast have "lived through a political crisis that has devastated their economy, created a humanitarian crisis that threatens the region, and led to the deaths of over 400 Ivoirian citizens," Bureau of African Affairs Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson said in a special briefing on March 31.
Forces loyal to Ouattara have been engaged in fierce fighting with troops loyal to Gbagbo; in recent weeks, they have stepped up their offensive to force the ex-leader out of power. Violence escalated during the last week of March, when what has been described as a "massacre" left hundreds dead in the town of Duékoué. Both camps have been blamed for the killings.
Half a million refugees have been displaced in Abidjan, the country's commercial capital and site of some of the fiercest recent fighting; many are suffering from severe water and food shortages. According to OCHA, most of the hospitals in the area are not functioning and ambulances have been fired on when they tried to enter the city. Many civilians in Abidjan have become the victims of stray bullets when they're forced by thirst and hunger to break the noon curfew in attempts to find sustenance. More than 100,000 Ivorians have fled to nearby Liberia, which is feeling the strain of all of the refugees.
The Guardian reports that this week, Ouattara's forces launched their final assault to unseat Gbagbo, but there are fears of reprisal attacks even after the official war between Ouattara and Gbagbo ends. And the hundreds of thousands of displaced Ivorians will continue to need relief and aid.
See which organizations are aiding the humanitarian effort in Ivory Coast, and how you can help.
Save the Children has provided food and other basic necessities to children and families fleeing the violence in Ivory Coast. In Duékoué, where food and water are in short supply, Save the Children distributed rice, oil and tuna to 20,000 people and gave out 2,000 packets of soap to help families stay clean and healthy. This week, Save the Children launched a $40 Million Appeal to help children in Ivory Coast. Support their efforts with a donation.
Action Against Hunger has been constructing latrines and distributing water filters and hygiene supplies for displaced families in Duékoué, Danane and Man. They are deploying additional teams and emergency supplies this week, amid increasingly urgent conditions, as thousands of displaced families suffer from malnutrition and inadequate sanitation. Support Action Against Hunger's efforts to combat malnutrition and provide sanitation and access to safe water.
UNICEF has been working to protect the children in Ivory Coast -- many of whom have lost homes and parents -- and stop the recruiting of children by armed forces on all sides of the conflict. UNICEF has been able to reach out to the displaced population in the west with basic supplies, but they urgently need to reach those at risk -- especially in Abidjan, where an estimated one million displaced people are in dire need. Make a donation to UNICEF to support Ivorian children.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), together with the International Committee of the Red Cross, is the only international organization in western Ivory Coast providing care to wounded people, addressing other medical emergencies and attempting to bring medical care to others affected by violence and displacement. MSF surgical teams are supporting the hospital in Bangolo, helping treat people who have suffered gunshot and machete wounds; they have also donated medical equipment and drugs to help health staff in Danané respond to mass casualties there. Help MSF doctors and nurses bring medical treatment and supplies to those in need.
UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) teams in Liberia have reached out to Ivorian refugees in remote and difficult-to-access areas along the border. To cope with the spike in the number of new arrivals in Liberia, UNHCR set up a rapid emergency registration system. In Liberia, plans are under way to create a camp at Garwee, in anticipation of a further influx of refugees. UNHCR is also helping generous host communities in impoverished Liberia. UNHCR needs donor help for its growing emergency response. Help fund their operations in Liberia and Ivory Coast, including the purchase and transportation of emergency aid supplies.
International Rescue Committee teams have launched educational and recreational programs for displaced children, and are identifying and tracing the families of separated minors in Ivory Coast. In Duékoué and other turbulent areas in the west, 45 peace committees set up by the IRC over the past five years are actively working to ease rising tensions and prevent further violence and displacement. Two IRC mobile medical teams are operating clinics along the border for both refugees and local villagers, and a third is overseeing screenings, treatment and vaccinations at, a transit center where refugees are registered and offered food and temporary shelter before placement in host villages or camps. Help the IRC prepare for new waves of refugees and respond to evolving humanitarian needs with expanded medical services and programs for vulnerable children.