UN seeks to aid thousands of displaced Ivorians

More than 16,000 people in western Côte d’Ivoire, driven from their homes by violence after the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down despite his election defeat, need immediate medical aid, food, shelter and protection, the United Nations said on Monday.

“No one can remain indifferent to this human suffering,” the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Ndolamb Ngokwey, said on his return to Abidjan, the commercial capital, from a two-day visit to the internally displaced persons (IDPs), the majority of them children and pregnant and lactating women.

“Together we all have the duty and the obligation to take action in a coordinated manner for the benefit of the affected and vulnerable people immediately.”

According to a statement issued by the UN Information Centre in Accra on Tuesday, the IDPs were forced to leave their villages and take refuge in the towns of Duékoué, Man and Danané.

Mr Ngokwey deplored the human casualties and the loss of property, particularly in Duékoué.

The West African country, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, has been in turmoil since early December when Gbagbo refused to leave office despite opposition leader Alassane Ouattara’s UN-certified and internationally-recognized victory in November’s run-off election.

Tens of thousands of people have also sought refuge in neighbouring Liberia.

Mr Ngokwey and his delegation met with local civilian and military authorities, traditional chiefs, religious leaders, civil society organizations and the IDPs themselves. During the mission, a supply of medicines and non-food items were handed over to the Catholic Mission of Duékoué, which is providing shelter for thousands of IDPs.

Local authorities pledged to grant access and provide security to humanitarian actors in order to ensure that vulnerable and affected people benefit from the emergency humanitarian aid.

In Liberia, UN agencies are aiding refugees from among both Mr Ouattara’s and Mr Gbagbo’s supporters.

The statement said their numbers now topped 22,000, most of whom were women and children who urgently needed food, shelter and clean water, all in short supply in Liberia’s Nimba County, where the refugees were arriving.

The statement said the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to ask the Security Council this week for between 1,000 and 2,000 additional forces for the nearly 9,000-strong UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), which had been supporting efforts over the past seven years to reunify a country split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and a rebel-held north.

Mr Gbagbo has demanded UNOCI’s departure, which the UN has rejected, and the mission is now protecting Mr Ouattara and his Government in the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, surrounded by regular and irregular forces loyal to Mr Gbagbo.

Source: GNA

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