By Moustapha Diallo in Côte d'Ivoire
While in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d'Ivoire, life is returning to normal, the humanitarian situation remains alarming in the west of the country. In Duekoué, some 27,000 people who fled as a result of the post-election crisis continue to shelter inside the premises of the Catholic mission in the town, in suffocating conditions. They survive through assistance provided by humanitarian agencies including the Red Cross.
Thousands more remain displaced in the Moyen Cavally region, particularly in Toulepleu, Guiglo and Bolequin and villages in the Montagnes region. Most of them sought refuge in Liberia. Others are still hiding in the forest or in villages near the Liberian border.
As of 19 May, UNHCR estimated that over 182,000 Ivorian refugees have arrived in Liberia. Most of them were hosted by families who themselves are already exhausted and unable to cope with the needs of their guests in terms of food, drinking water, shelter and latrines.
Trauma and shock
The people have fled in fear for their lives and are traumatized. Some of them intend to return but and are waiting for the security situation to improve.
"We want to go back and live in peace," says Marie GboGbo, a 22-year-old woman who sought refuge with her baby in the Catholic mission. "Look at the conditions in which we live here."
For the Red Cross of Côte d'Ivoire and thousands of its volunteers, psychological support will soon become an essential aspect of their work.
In the village of Dohouba, in the Montagnes region, some families have returned and are trying to rebuild their lives.
Batoua Zogbeu, a 60-year old resident of Dohouba, says his family's food reserves were looted during the three months he was in Liberia. “My wife picks up bundles of firewood in the forest and sells them in the market. We survive with the returns from the sale, at least to secure one meal a day for the children,” he says.
If some families are facing food security challenges and access to clean water, others are waiting to rebuild their homes.
"In many villages, houses were partially or completely burned or destroyed, and farms destroyed forcing people into exile and destitution," says Norbert Allale, Head of the IFRC FACT team deployed in Côte d'Ivoire.
Health remains a major concern. Many many centres in the area were deserted by staff or looted. "We will develop an action plan to help the Red Cross of Côte d'Ivoire to strengthen its assistance to the people affected by the post-electioral violence and in coordination with other humanitarian partners in the country," says Allale.
With the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Red Cross of Côte d'Ivoire was one of the few organizations that were able to intervene during the crisis, providing assistance to the populations in need.
In the neighbouring Liberia, the Liberian Red Cross with support from the IFRC and other Movement partners also continues to assist the Ivorian refugees and their host communities.