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Crisis in Côte d’Ivoire: is the world watching?

While the eyes of the world’s media are focused on the tragic earthquake in Japan and the conflict which continues to rage in Libya, the humanitarian situation in Côte d’Ivoire is deteriorating.

There has been growing unrest in the country since the disputed presidential election in November, but events may now be spiralling out of control. Both the UN Security Council and International Crisis Group have warned that the situation in Côte d’Ivoire is now likely to develop into a full-scale civil war — a return to the devastating conflict that ravaged the country and the region less than a decade ago. Massive numbers of people have had to leave their homes, there is increasing violence against civilians, and threats to health, education and food sources. We believe a real humanitarian crisis is unfolding.

Struggling for basics amid the chaos

Fleeing the violence, around 80,000 Ivoirians are now thought to have crossed the border into Liberia (where Save the Children is working to register refugees and provide emergency education). According to UN agencies, as many as 300,000 may be displaced in Côte d’Ivoire’s largest city, Abidjan.

Across the country — but especially in the north and west — more than a million children have been forced out of the classroom as a result of the political situation.  That’s on top of another million who had already dropped out of school before the crisis. Also, as state services break down, there are worries for healthcare — a single hospital in the Abobo district of Abidjan — where MSF is working — is serving 2 million people.  There have already been deaths from measles, cholera and yellow fever. When power and water are cut — including to hospitals — pregnant mothers and young babies are particularly at risk.  Food prices have also risen steeply, increasing the risk of malnutrition among children.

Staying safe

It’s vitally important that children get back into school where they can be protected, as well as begin to get back a sense of normal daily life amid the insecurity. It’s also crucial that children and their families — whether they’re in their own homes, staying with host families or living in camps — are provided with protection from violence.  The international community must make it clear to all those involved in the conflict that the use of violence against civilians will not go unpunished.

The time has come for a strong response from the international community. The fact that multiple events are vying for attention is not an excuse for turning a blind eye to the plight of Ivoirian children. World leaders should start by speaking out on acts of violence against civilians and by supporting a robust and impartial humanitarian response throughout the country.

It’s shocking that two UN appeals for the region are only one-quarter funded.  That’s not good enough for Côte d’Ivoire’s children. It’s time for action.

Find out more about our work in Cote d’Ivoire

Support our Children’s Emergency Fund, which helps us respond quickly when disaster strikes, and has been vital to us setting up this response in Côte d’Ivoire.

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