4 November 2004


Press ReleaseAFR/1061 IHA/958



NEW YORK, 4 November(UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) -- An eruption of fighting around the Ivorian city of Bouaké, some 300 km north of Abidjan, threatens to cut thousands of people off from urgently needed humanitarian aid.  Due to tensions across Côte d’Ivoire, United Nations humanitarian workers are suspending their activities throughout the country today.

“Côte d’Ivoire has been in a humanitarian crisis for two years.  A prolonged suspension of aid programmes would endanger thousands of lives”, said Jan Egeland, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator.

OCHA’s office in Abidjan reports that the UN World Food Programme and the International Committee of the Red Cross have halted their operations in the Bouaké area.  Further, the World Food Programme (WFP) has not been able to deliver aid to beneficiaries since the weekend because of roadblocks.  There has been a sharp rise in the number of roadblocks near the “Zone de Confiance”, an area separating rebel and government forces, around Bouaké in the past week.

Since the crisis began two years ago, the humanitarian situation in northern Côte d’Ivoire -- once the economic engine of West Africa -- has been characterized by the prolonged absence of public administration and basic social services.  Civilians in the north have been sinking further into poverty, having been cut off from the commercial activities and the social services of the south.  Health care is a major concern in northern Côte d’Ivoire.  An estimated 70 per cent of the professional health workers that used to work in the north have yet to return to their posts.  In one department/zone, it was reported in May that there is only one doctor to address the needs of around 200,000 people.  In the same zone it has been reported that four out of five water pumps in the rural areas are not functioning.  Humanitarian organizations and donors will have to continue to support and encourage the Government to redeploy health professionals to the north.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that around 700,000 children have been out of school since the beginning of the crisis, some because there are no teachers to teach them, others because their families are displaced or have become too poor to send them to school.  There are approximately 500,000 internally displaced persons in Côte d’Ivoire, the majority of whom are living with host families.

Humanitarian operations in Côte d’Ivoire have suffered from poor funding.  The UN’s 2004 Humanitarian Appeal for Côte d’Ivoire has received only 18 per cent of the $61 million required for emergency programmes.

For further information, contact Brian Grogan, tel:  212 963-1143(OCHA New York); or Elizabeth Byrs, tel.:  +41 22 917 2653 (OCHA Geneva).

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For information media. Not an official record.