7 January 2011 The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is seeking over $20 million to enable the agency to respond to the humanitarian needs of people in Côte d’Ivoire and five neighbouring countries over the next three months.
Political tension has gripped the West African nation following the outgoing president’s refusal to step down despite his opponent’s electoral victory.
Marixie Mercado, the UNICEF spokesperson in Geneva, told reporters today that the humanitarian situation in Côte d’Ivoire remained fluid and that the agency was working with other UN partners to coordinate response and funding appeals.
The main concerns included maintaining the ability to respond to disease outbreaks through vaccination campaigns in the region and access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation facilities.
Adequate nutrition is also essential for communities faced with food price hikes and shortages, and there is a need to ensure that health care is available and that children are protected.
UNICEF and other agencies are already providing education, household items and water and sanitation to Ivorians who have crossed the border into Liberia, Ms. Mercado said.
According to Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ivorian refugees were entering Liberia at the rate of 500 per day, bringing the number to 23,000 people as of today.
Liberian host communities have continued to accommodate the refugees, but their capacity to receive an increasing number of people is being stretched, prompting UNHCR to begin setting up a refugee camp.
While the site for the camp has been identified and the basic materials are in place, the final approval is still pending, Mr. Fleming said.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP), meanwhile, reported that it has airlifted five metric tons of high energy biscuits into Liberia for distribution in the border area, enough to feed 7,000 refugees for three days.
WFP spokesperson Emilia Casella said the agency will work with UNHCR to set up an emergency relief operation to assist 18,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Côte d’Ivoire and 15,000 refugees in Liberia for 45 days.
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