afrol News, 8 March - The new warfare in Côte d'Ivoire, which includes cutting water and power provisions for entire populations, has now displaced an estimated half a million persons. The number is quickly increasing.
These new numbers measuring the humanitarian crisis following the renewed fighting in Côte d'Ivoire were presented by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) today. IOM puts the number of newly displaced at at least 450,000.
Although continued unrest in Côte d'Ivoire's largest city Abidjan and the targeting of aid workers and organisations has meant it has become difficult to carry out assessments, between 200,000 – 300,000 people are thought to be forcibly displaced, mainly in the Abobo district, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.
In the west of the country, where IOM is now the only aid agency operating in Douékoué and Guiglo and the link from the field to the humanitarian community outside, another 70,000 people are internally displaced. "However, with fighting between rival forces at Toulepleu, this figure is likely to not only have led to significantly more people being displaced," IOM says in a statement today.
According to IOM's chief of mission in Côte d'Ivoire, Jacques Seurt, population movements have taken on a new "dynamic" in the country, with people fleeing one conflict after the other, many being displaced for a second and third time.
Fighting in the west has also led to about 8,000 people crossing the border into Liberia in recent days, bringing the number of Ivorian refugees there to nearly 80,000. This was in addition to as yet an unknown number of third country nationals and Liberian returnees who have also crossed the Ivorian-Liberian border.
With another 20,000 people including Ivorians, third country nationals and returnees having fled to Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Niger, the displacement crisis in the region "has now reached alarming proportions," the IOM says.
For Liberians, the situtation risks becoming even worse, accoding to UNHCR spokesman Adrican Edwards. "Persistent reports that Liberian mercenaries are being brought in to join the fighting is fueling distrust. This in turn is creating risks for the 24,000 Liberian refugees in Côte d'Ivoire," Mr Edwards warned today.
IOM adds that the new economic warfare in the country is causing new victims and displaced. "The cutting of water and electricity supplies in the north and west of the country has seriously affected people's lives, especially of those people displaced and living in camps," IOM reports from Côte d'Ivoire.
IOM staff in Guiglo and Duékoué have reported that "conditions are rapidly deteriorating and are struggling to find alternative solutions to deal with the shortages in an increasingly volatile and difficult environment," the humanitarian organisation says.
According to Mr Seurt, pro-Gbabgo fighters are reported "terrorising the population in the area south of the Toulepleu-Bloléquin axis, forcing Burkinabés and other migrant communities as well as Ivorians to seek refuge in the forests at Scio, north of Toulepleu. What is clear is that there several reasons why people are fleeing their homes in this part of the country and the information we have is piecemeal."
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