Tope Akinwande in Abidjan
The recent upsurge in fighting in Côte d'Ivoire has increased the need for an urgent response to humanitarian needs in neighbouring countries. For this reason, the International Federation has launched an appeal to assist refugees and returnees in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
Thousands of people have been displaced in Cote d'Ivoire since 19 September 2002, when insurgents tried to topple the Ivorian government. The population movement has provoked fears that the humanitarian crisis could spill over into neighbouring countries.
The appeal, worth 1.314 million Swiss francs (US$886,317), was launched in Abidjan on 11 December. Eric Michel-Sellier, interim Head of Regional Delegation in Abidjan, explained that the Federation's priority would be to assist the most vulnerable of the displaced persons, by providing them with non-food items such blankets, sleeping mats, tents and hygiene kits.
"We are also going to build the capacity of national societies through training or retraining of volunteers in instructing the population to reduce the risk of communicable diseases," he explained.
The appeal was launched following fact-finding missions by the International Federation's West Africa Regional Disaster Response Team (RDRT) to Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The three teams of six people evaluated the humanitarian needs and the operational capacity of the local Red Cross Red Crescent committees.
"As of 4 November, the Niger government had repatriated over 6,000 of its nationals from Cote d'Ivoire. Ninety-five per cent of them are from the arid and deprived region of Tahoua, 600 km northeast of the capital, Niamey," Christine Lamarque d'Azourat, a member of the RDRT to Niger, explained.
"With the increase in fighting in Cote d'Ivoire and the continuing massive repatriation, there is going to be a serious food and health situations in Tahoua region if something is not done as fast as possible," she warned.
Though the Mali Red Cross (MRC), supported by the ICRC, has been assisting refugees and returnees since the first 50 families of 400 persons arrived at the Ivorian-Mali border town of Zégoua during the early days of the crisis, more still needs to be done as more displaced people arrive in the country.
"Unlike Niger, where there are only cases of returnees, there are thousands of West African refugees crossing into Mali," said Nicole Kouabénan, a Federation Disaster Preparedness Officer who was part of the fact-finding mission to Mali and Burkina Faso.
"Seventy per cent are Ivorians, stuck in the Louloni and Zégoua camps. Malian returnees join their families. The Red Cross has been assisting them but we need to double our efforts" she concluded.
Kouabénan explained that the Burkina Faso Red Cross had trained 250 volunteers from provinces bordering Côte d'Ivoire to assist in the seven reception posts, three transit centres and a permanent centre for foreigners. Over 5,000 people have registered and received assistance in the transit centres, but an unknown number had not bothered to register.
" We have to scale up our assistance as the fighting continues" she concluded.
Text of emergency appeal
West Africa: regional documents
Côte d'Ivoire: appeals, updates and reports
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