UNHCR warns that Côte d'Ivoire needs going dangerously overlooked
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
The UN refugee agency is becoming increasingly concerned by the very limited response we have seen thus far to the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire. While international attention has been focused in recent weeks on events in North Africa, the unfolding tragedy in West Africa has gone largely overlooked. With some 370,000 people displaced in Abidjan and western Côte d'Ivoire, and 76, 956 refugees registered so far in Liberia the total displacement numbers are nearing the half million mark.
On 14 January UNHCR appealed for US$46 million in funding, mainly to help deal with the outflow of refugees into neighbouring Liberia. So far we have received only US$5 million of this sum, and promises of a further US$13 million. With the growing displacement, UNHCR is considering a new and increased funding appeal next week, and we hope donors will respond more positively.
Currently we are seeing a further degrading of the security environment in Abidjan. From new clashes in the Abobo district on March 6th and Cocody district on March 7th we have had reports of 30 people wounded and three deaths. Armed checkpoints are continuing to make travel around the city dangerous, affecting the entire population.
UNHCR is continuing to help where we can, often working through local NGOs. So far we have identified some 20 sites around the city where large numbers of internally displaced people are concentrated. While needs assessments and numbers of IDPs are still being determined in some of these locations it is already clear that people are in urgent need of food and non-food aid including medicine.
Outside Abidjan, the violence in the west appears to be spreading to central and southeastern parts of the country. People forced to flee are reporting attempts to stop them from moving and physical abuse, including reported rape cases.
In Liberia this week, our staff spoke to a 21-year-old Ivorian refugee woman who fled with her two-year-old son after rebels beat her for resisting rape. More and more refugees fleeing into Liberia are recounting gunfire along the way, sometimes forcing them to hide or sleep in the bush.
With the growing influx we are revising our planning in Liberia and increasing the budget to respond to the needs of up to 150,000 refugees.