UN agencies assist Côte dIvoire as humanitarian conditions deteriorate

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed for $16 million from the international community to deliver food assistance to 500,000 people in Côte d’Ivoire for a period of eight months. These include internally displaced persons, refugees from Liberia and families hosting them, WFP said.”Hundreds of thousands of people are already confronting food shortages caused by civil unrest over the last few months,” WFP Regional Coordinator Gemmo Lodesani said. “As armed incursions continue in Liberia and western Côte d’Ivoire, more people are being displaced, trapped and cut-off from sources of income and food.”Mr. Lodesani warned that if people were not helped to start a normal life, Côte d’Ivoire would soon fall back into chaos and conflict. “We have to move quickly and rebuild people’s lives, if the hope of peace is to be fulfilled,” he stated.Over the weekend the number of new Liberian refugees totalled 15,000 following the rebel takeover of Mariland County just over a week ago, said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The agency is providing shelter and emergency assistance to large numbers of people who continue to pour into the southwest of Côte d’Ivoire.”Most of the other arrivals have made their way into rural villages where they are believed to be integrating with the local population,” UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski said today in Geneva. “The new arrivals consist of Liberians, Ivorian returnees unable to return to their place of origin, and so-called third country nationals – West Africans who had been living in Côte d’Ivoire and had initially fled to Liberia in the wake of the Ivorian conflict.”Mr. Janowski said UNHCR is distributing hundreds of mats, blankets, plastic sheeting, soap and jerry cans to the village chiefs at the major crossing points in appreciation of their willingness to accept refugees. The West African region is already swirling with hundreds of thousands of refugees from earlier wars in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where some 850,000 people depend on UN food rations for their survival.

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