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UNHCR issues West Africa appeal

Briefing notes

UNHCR issues West Africa appeal

20 March 2003

As the world's attention focuses on the war in Iraq, UNHCR is also facing an extremely urgent challenge in West Africa. We are presently assisting 120,000 people directly affected by the six-month conflict in and around Côte d'Ivoire. Hundreds of thousands of others have been displaced inside the country itself. The humanitarian situation remains very preoccupying in a region where conflicts and instability are rife.

We are today issuing a revised appeal for a total of US$29 million to cover the needs of some 163,000 people who could be affected by the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire in 2003. The fresh funds would allow us to assist mixed populations - refugees and returnees - fleeing the Ivorian conflict. Ivorian refugees and Liberians living in Côte d'Ivoire have fled to several neighbouring countries, including strife-torn Liberia where conditions are extremely difficult. Other Liberians who remain in Côte d'Ivoire are finding themselves in an extremely vulnerable situation, facing hostility, harassment and military recruitment by both sides.

Among the 120,000 persons assisted by UNHCR in the wake of the Ivorian crisis are the 42,000 Ivorian refugees - mainly in Liberia and Guinea - who have fled since September. UNHCR estimates that this figure could more than double if the situation does not stabilise rapidly inside Côte d'Ivoire. New camps need to be established in Liberia, where the security situation at the border is currently hampering our relief efforts. In Guinea, where refugees have been transferred to existing camps, urgent site rehabilitation or extension is needed to cater for the new influx.

Meanwhile, more than 40,000 Liberians who were living in western Côte d'Ivoire have been compelled to return home since November. This figure could still increase by another 15,000. Until now we have only been able to provide these returnees with limited assistance, because of the unexpected pace and size of the returns. UNHCR has assisted them with transport home, or to camps for the displaced for those whose area of origin remains unsafe. We plan to extend our transit facilities and provide each returnee with a basic assistance package, as well as some support to the communities of return consisting of schools and hospitals rehabilitation and improvements to the water and sanitation systems.

Out of an initial population of 70,000 before the crisis, UNHCR estimates that 35,000 Liberians remain in Côte d'Ivoire today. We are planning to evacuate some 5,000 of them to a third country in the region because of their extreme vulnerability. As the spontaneous outflow towards their home country continues, we estimate that about 10,000 Liberian refugees will eventually remain in Côte d'Ivoire. We have asked the Ivorian government to identify a new site in a safe area where refugees from Nicla and from Abidjan could receive protection and assistance.

To carry out essential distribution of basic items, UNHCR has established an emergency regional stockpile in Accra, Ghana, with sufficient relief material for 20,000 people. The stockpile will be extended to cater for 50,000.

The $29 million appeal will constitute UNHCR's portion of the UN consolidated appeal for the Ivorian crisis, due to come out shortly. UNHCR funds will be used primarily for transport, logistics and infrastructure, as well as protection, monitoring of borders and domestic items. In December, UNHCR had launched an initial appeal of US$ 6.1 million for three months. The appeal received a very good response, with over $6 million in contributions from France, USA, Germany, UK, Sweden, Canada, Ireland, Italy and Andorra.