Amidst efforts to solve Ivorian political deadlock, UN agencies prepare aid

Amidst efforts to solve Côte d’Ivoire’s political gridlock, UN humanitarian agencies are gearing up to deal with the humanitarian repercussions of the country’s ongoing crisis.

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Since late last week, several UN bodies have stepped up their activities dealing with the effects of the crisis on the people of Côte d’Ivoire. Parallel to the agencies’ activities, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon continues to follow events on the ground extremely closely.

Côte d’Ivoire plunged into a tense political crisis after the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to concede electoral defeat to his challenger, Alassane Ouattara, following a presidential run-off poll held on 28 November. The international community has recognized Mr. Ouattara as the country’s president.

Earlier Tuesday, the Secretary-General took part in a video conference call with the senior leadership of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire, along with senior officials and advisers at UN Headquarters in New York.

At a press briefing, also on Tuesday, the Secretary-General’s spokesperson said he is disappointed that the latest visit by a joint delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) did not produce the desired result, but he continues to believe that ECOWAS and AU are playing an important role.

Media reports later cited a communiqué from both organizations, which said that while Mr. Gbagbo refused to step down, he had “agreed to negotiate a peaceful end to the crisis without any preconditions.”

Mr. Ban’s spokesperson added that the Secretary-General will speak with Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, later on Tuesday, to discuss their assessment on the way forward on Cote d’Ivoire.

Meanwhile, on the humanitarian front, the UN Children’s Fund, also known by the acronym UNICEF,  will provide supplies of supplementary and therapeutic foods for the treatment of an estimated 14,000 children suffering from moderate acute malnutrition and 6,700 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

The UN refugee agency – the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – is working on the establishment of a special camp in Liberia’s Nimba County to shelter the thousands of Ivorian refugees seeking safety in the neighbouring country.

A camp planner and a health expert arrived in the town of Saclepea, in Nimba County, late last week and work on the camp was due to have started this week.

As of 31 December, UNHCR had registered 18,091 Ivorian refugees in Saclepea, with more than half of those arriving women and close to two-thirds of them under 18 years of age.

According to UNHCR, local communities have so far hosted the refugees – but with an average of 400-500 arriving daily, it has become increasingly difficult for host communities to cope.

The refugee agency will also deploy additional personnel to reinforce its team in Liberia, where its staff continue to distribute emergency aid in villages where refugees are sheltered.

UNHCR has pre-positioned aid in the region to assist 30,000 Ivorian refugees and has spent some $3 million to provide relief items from its emergency reserves. It has said that it will need donor support to continue its aid efforts in Liberia.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has airlifted five metric tons of high energy biscuits to assist the growing number of people crossing into Liberia’s Nimba County – the first consignment in a wave of food assistance that WFP is mobilizing to meet the immediate nutritional needs of the refugees.

Working with the Government of Liberia, the World Health Organization and partners, UNICEF has been providing health kits, essential drugs and equipment to seven health facilities in areas which have a high refugee presence in Liberia.

On 31 December, 2010, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Regional Office for West and Central Africa hosted a meeting on a regional emergency humanitarian action plan for Côte d’Ivoire and its five neighbouring countries. The plan is expected to be finalized on 7 January.

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