We already said here that things were going from bad to worse in Côte d’Ivoire. As the crisis pitting internationally-recognized head of state Alassane Ouattara and embattled despot Laurent Gbagbo remains unresolved, Ivoirians are experiencing increasing levels of violence and insecurity. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the ability of the people of Côte d’Ivoire to enjoy basic economic, social and cultural rights is being “drastically undermined on an ever-increasing scale“, while a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration noted that “displacement from the Côte d’Ivoire crisis has reached alarming proportions.”
I was disturbed to read that 450,000 people have thus far been displaced by the conflict, including 300,000 in Abidjan’s Abobo district alone. When such large numbers of people are displaced in a short amount of time, it’s very difficult for aid agencies to respond adequately. Insufficient pre-positioned supplies, a lack of access to the communities where the displaced find themselves, and a tense operating environment complicate humanitarian interventions. In these situations, a majority of the displaced end up with friends, relatives – sometimes strangers – and are difficult for aid agencies to reach. The ICRC has been able to provide shelter for about 500 residents of the Abobo district in temporary reception centers. Displacement further implies slowed down economic productivity, and loss of income for households. It places a lot of pressure on host households, and, when such massive numbers of people are on the move, displacement in times of conflict is a source of significant tension.
Philippe Beauverd of the ICRC in Abidjan notes that his organization is “particularly concerned that young people from various factions, who are armed with knives and cudgels, seem to be completely out of control. They have set up barricades in some streets and are venting their anger on the local people.”
Meanwhile, neighboring Liberia – itself recovering from war and with at least 20,000 citizens living as refugees in Côte d’Ivoire – has welcomed about 75,000 Ivoirians fleeing violence in the west. A lack of infrastructure makes providing humanitarian aid in that remote part of Liberia a logistical nightmare, and while the UNHCR is building camps to provide shelter, many of the refugees have been taken in by local communities, creating the same kinds of issues described above. Matt Jones, who blogs over at Moved2Monrovia, produced this map to show where Ivoirian people have taken refuge in Liberia (I highly recommend reading the whole post):
Photojournalist Glenna Gordon recently traveled to the border area, and brought back some images of what the situation looks like on the ground (again, I highly recommend you check out the whole series of images):
And while civilians are fleeing violence and cocoa farmers are suffering from a trade embargo on their crop, Laurent Gbagbo was playing hard ball with African Union mediators, rejecting their latest offer of a power-sharing arrangement, and banned UN and French flights from Ivoirian airspace (the UN said flights would continue despite this interdiction.)