Aid reaching IDPs in Abidjan but insecurity still a major challenge

Briefing Notes, 15 March 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 15 March 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR, via local implementing partners, began aid distribution in Abidjan this past weekend to some of the many thousands of people who have fled fighting. However the difficulties in doing so continue to be compounded by problems of insecurity and the resulting limited humanitarian access. On Monday, new fighting was reported in the city's commercial district of Yopougon, and overall the situation for Abidjan's residents and humanitarian workers alike remains fragile.

Despite this, UNHCR and its partners and other organizations have so far been able to reach over 10,000 IDPs, although getting to people staying with friends and relatives or in the districts of Abobo and Anyama remains particularly problematic. Of the estimated 300,000 people displaced in Abidjan, UNHCR and its partners have so far identified some 18,000 people in groups spread across 24 sites, and 19,000 others amid clusters of host families.

The aid we have been handing out consists of non-food items (blankets, mats, tents, mosquito nets and soap). In addition, the IDPs are receiving food provided by the World Food Programme, as well as medicine donated by UNICEF and the International Federation of the Red Cross.

Currently there are numerous check-points around the city manned by self-defence groups from both political camps. In Yopougon our partners have been physically prevented from delivering aid, which is directly impacting people in need of help. At an IDP site in Yopougon, 314 people have been reported ill. We were told that a woman had had to give birth without medical support, while an eight-year-old boy with asthma was said to have died.

In addition, aid distributions scheduled for early this week in villages surrounding Abidjan have been postponed as a result of the new fighting in Abobo and Yopougon, which are the only access routes to these villages.

Despite these conditions, our humanitarian partners continue to discover new pockets of IDPs in and around Abidjan, as well as in Akoupé, Yamoussoukro and Jaqueville in south-east and eastern Côte d'Ivoire.




UNHCR country pages

New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

As of late March, more than 100,000 Ivorian refugees had crossed into eastern Liberia since lingering political tension from a disputed presidential election in neighbouring Côte d' Ivoire erupted into violence in February. Most have gone to Liberia's Nimba County, but in a sign that the fighting has shifted, some 6,000 Ivorians recently fled across the border into Liberia's Grand Gedeh County. Most of the new arrivals have settled in remote villages - some inaccessible by car. The UN refugee agency sent a mission to assess the needs of the refugees in the region.

Photographer Glenna Gordon photographed new arrivals near Zwedru in south-eastern Liberia.

New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

UNHCR has expressed its mounting concern about civilians trapped in the Abobo district of Cote d'Ivoire's commercial centre, Abidjan, following days of fierce fighting between forces loyal to rival presidential candidates. The situation there remains grim. Many of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Abobo have fled, but armed groups are reportedly preventing others from leaving. UNHCR is particularly concerned about vulnerable people, such as the sick and the elderly, who may not be able to leave.

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

UNHCR has begun transferring refugees from Côte d'Ivoire to a new refugee camp in the north-eastern Liberian town of Bahn. Over the coming weeks UNHCR hopes to move up to 15,000 refugees into the facility, which has been carved out of the jungle. They are among almost 40,000 civilians from Côte d'Ivoire who have fled to escape mounting political tension in their country since the presidential election in late November.

The final number of people to move to Bahn will depend on how many wish to be relocated.from villages near the Liberia-Côte d'Ivoire border. Initially most of the refugees were taken in by host communities, living side-by-side with locals. Poor road conditions made it difficult for humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance. Supplies of food, medicine and water have been running low, making conditions difficult for both locals and refugees.

At the camp in Bahn, refugees will have easy access to basic services such as health care, clean water and primary school education.

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

Liberia: A Neighbour's HelpPlay video

Liberia: A Neighbour's Help

Alphonse Gonglegbe fled to Liberia with his family a few months ago. He appreciates the help he's been receiving in this land neighbouring his native Côte d'Ivoire.
Liberia: Hurried FlightPlay video

Liberia: Hurried Flight

Tens of thousands of Ivorians have fled their villages and sought shelter in Liberia. Francis says he ran for his life and now he wants safety and food.
Liberia: Arrival at Bahn CampPlay video

Liberia: Arrival at Bahn Camp

UNHCR has opened a new camp for up to 15,000 Ivorian refugees at Bahn in eastern Liberia. Follow the arrival of the first group.