Denis Bahou and his extended family at an IOM managed camp in Duékoué, Côte d’Ivoire. Credit: Laura Burke/UN CERF/ UNOCHA
Thousands of Ivorians need help rebuilding lives destroyed by post-election violence.
Denis Bahou and his family are among tens of thousands of Ivorians who are still struggling to recover from last year’s post-election violence.
When the conflict claimed the lives of several of his close family members, Denis fled his home in Duékoué, western Côte d’Ivoire. He lived in the bush for a week with 22 family members, hiding from the violent armed groups that carried out mass killings and other serious human rights abuses in the area.
Denis then sought refuge at a Catholic mission that was crowded with some 30,000 displaced people. At the height of the post-election violence in early 2011, about 1 million people were displaced within Côte d’Ivoire, and 200,000 were forced to flee to neighbouring countries.
Conditions at the church were harsh. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an average of five people died there every day. Old people and children were particularly vulnerable.
“We had to sleep on the ground,” Denis said. “My daughter, who was nine months’ pregnant, even slept outside in the rain. Everyone was sick with coughs and diarrhoea.”
In response to the public-health emergency at the mission, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) gave US$365,000 to IOM to provide basic aid and camp-management services.
“CERF funding was a life saver,” said David Coomber, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Côte d’Ivoire. “It helped to reduce the death rate drastically, and it kick-started basic humanitarian services for the displaced people.”
With the funding, IOM was also able to reduce overcrowding by relocating people to a new site close to the church. In November 2011, IOM worked with the Ivorian Government and humanitarian partners to support displaced people who wanted to return to their homes within the area and in surrounding villages.
People who were displaced first had the opportunity to visit their villages to see for themselves if the security and living conditions had improved. They could then decide whether they still wanted to return home.
Denis and his family decided to stay at the mission, where some 17,000 displaced people remained at the end of 2011.
“It’s calm here,” he said. “We should have gone home by now, but our house was burned down and we have no roof. At least we have shelter here.”
With the CERF funding, IOM began rehabilitating homes in some of the worst conflict-affected areas, and provided returnees with plastic sheeting, mattresses, kitchen sets and other household necessities.
The World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization and UNICEF also received funding from CERF, which allocated about $427 million in 2011 to provide food, clean drinking water, sanitation services and access to education for children who were affected by the violence.
Today, about 18 months after the crisis began, people who have returned home need help rebuilding their lives and communities, and restoring the infrastructure of their towns and villages. Insecurity continues to be a threat. Recent attacks in parts of western Côte d’Ivoire displaced thousands of people and affected many who were recovering from the post-election crisis.
In response to the country’s ongoing humanitarian challenges, CERF allocated another $7.9 million to Côte d’Ivoire in April 2012. IOM received about $800,000 to help repair and rehabilitate shelters for the most vulnerable families, returnees and local communities.