Press Conference on Parallel Humanitarian Crises in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia

17 March 2011

Press Conference on Parallel Humanitarian Crises in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia

17 March 2011
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Parallel Humanitarian Crises in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia


Intensified humanitarian commitments were needed as the situation in Côte d’Ivoire and neighbouring Liberia continued to deteriorate, top United Nations officials said at a Headquarters press conference today.

“The humanitarian crisis in Côte d’Ivoire is very serious and it is getting worse,” said Ndolamb Ngokwey, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the West African nation.  To date, there were some 45,000 displaced persons in the west of Côte d’Ivoire and 10,000 living with host families.  In the capital of Abidjan — where a political standoff between former President Laurent Gbagbo and the newly elected President Alassane Outtara had been wreaking violence since December 2010 — the number of displaced stood at a staggering 300,000 and could grow to 450,000.

There was concern about the growing humanitarian impact on the wider Ivorian population, added Mr. Ngokwey, who is also the Humanitarian Coordinator for the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI).  Increased violence over the last 10 days was also threatening humanitarian access to vulnerable populations.

An initial flash appeal in January of $32 million for Côte d’Ivoire was expected to be 45 per cent funded by the end of the week, said Mr. Ngokwey.  He warned, however, that the figure was out of date and did not accurately reflect the deepening humanitarian crisis.  New planning figures were currently being explored and another appeal would soon be issued, he said, adding that additional funds were needed “so that the magnitude and scale of this crisis can be dealt with”.

He said that the humanitarian country team in Côte d’Ivoire, which was made up of international non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies, were responding through a so-called cluster approach.  That meant that experts in various humanitarian sectors, including health, food security and sanitation, were working together through coordinated groups, or clusters.

Moustapha Soumare, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Liberia, also briefed members of the press corps on the implications of Côte d’Ivoire’s crisis on adjacent Liberia.  He said that an increasing tide of refugees entering the country was threatening Liberia’s tenuous gains in democracy and development.

“We have more than 90,000 refugees who have crossed the border,” said Mr. Soumare, adding that, due to intensified violence, an estimated 40,000 of those had arrived in just three days during the past week.  Also in January, the United Nations system had launched a flash appeal of $55 million in funding to support those arriving in Liberia.  To date, about 32 per cent of that goal had been met.  But, as in Côte d’Ivoire, that initial number was now outdated and did not reflect the intensifying crisis, so a second flash appeal would soon be issued.

The refugees from Côte d’Ivoire were being hosted by border communities, which, even before the crisis, were already experiencing problems with access to basic services, he said.  Liberia as a whole was a very fragile State, as it was emerging from a 14-year-long civil war of its own, he noted.  Additionally, the country was in a “very sensitive period” as it prepared for its first general election in October 2011.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.