Fighting in Abidjan causes increased displacement amid lack of humanitarian funding

24 March, 2011
A family hurries away from the Abobo neighborhood in search of safety. Credit: UNHCR/H.Caux
A family hurries away from the Abobo neighborhood in search of safety. Credit: UNHCR/H.Caux

ERC Amos expressed today serious concern about the  rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Côte d’Ivoire. Since the announcement of election results in early December, the humanitarian situation has worsened dramatically in the country, with a particularly sharp deterioration in the last month.  

“The escalation of violence and use of heavy weaponry, particularly in urban areas, is taking an increasing toll on civilians,” Ms. Amos said.  “I am also concerned about the increasing targeting and harassment of immigrants from other parts of West Africa, thousands of whom are fleeing the country,” she added.

Armed fighting, killings and other human rights violations have become daily occurrences in Côte d’Ivoire’s economic capital, Abidjan. On 17 March 2011, pro-Gbagbo elements shelled a neighbourhood in Abobo, killing up to 30 people and injuring at least 40 more.

“The incident demonstrates a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law which prohibits attacks against civilians,” said USG Amos in a statement on 18 March 2011. “I am particularly worried by reports that civilians who wish to flee the violence in Abobo are prevented from doing so while others who are able to access assistance are intimidated into refusing it.”

Humanitarian Coordinator Ndolamb Ngokwey has expressed concern over the worsening situation, and the lack of funding for humanitarian response. The Côte d’Ivoire emergency appeal was launched in January for $55 million, but only $6.9 million has been received. The Liberia appeal is facing a shortage of $7 million. UNICEF is appealing for $51 million to finance its activities in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia.

“We have just allocated $10.4 million from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund—and we must to be able to use it to provide desperately needed aid,” she added.   

The situation is expected to worsen as 700,000 people – half the population of the Abobo neighbourhood – could be displaced in Abidjan following the deteriorating security and human rights situation, according to UNHCR. Aid organizations estimate that those displaced by violence in Abidjan will live with host families, making IDPs harder for humanitarian organizations to locate.