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11.01.2011 Ivory Coast


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10 January - More than 16,000 people in western Côte d'Ivoire, driven from their homes by violence after the outgoing president refused to step down despite his election defeat, need immediate medical aid, food, shelter and protection, the United Nations said today.

“No one can remain indifferent to this human suffering,” the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Ndolamb Ngokwey, said on his return to Abidjan, the commercial capital, from a two-day visit to the internally displaced persons (IDPs), the majority of them children and pregnant and lactating women.

“Together we all have the duty and the obligation to take action in a coordinated manner for the benefit of the affected and vulnerable people immediately.”

The IDPs were forced to leave their villages and take refuge in the towns of Duékoué, Man and Danané. Mr. Ngokwey deplored the human casualties and the loss of property, particularly in Duékoué.

The West African country, the world's biggest cocoa producer, has been in turmoil since early December when outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo refused leave office despite opposition leader Alassane Ouattara's UN-certified and internationally-recognized victory in November's run-off election. Tens of thousands of people have also sought refuge in neighbouring Liberia.

Mr. Ngokwey and his delegation met with local civilian and military authorities, traditional chiefs, religious leaders, civil society organizations and the IDPs themselves. During the mission, a supply of medicines and non-food items were handed over to the Catholic Mission of Duékoué, which is providing shelter for thousands of IDPs.

Local authorities pledged to grant access and provide security to humanitarian actors in order to ensure that vulnerable and affected people benefit from the emergency humanitarian aid.

In Liberia, UN agencies are aiding refugees from among both Mr. Ouattara's and Mr. Gbagbo's supporters. Their numbers now top 22,000, most of whom are women and children who urgently need food, shelter and clean water, all in short supply in Liberia's Nimba County, where the refugees are arriving.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to ask the Security Council this week for between 1,000 and 2,000 additional forces for the nearly 9,000-strong UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), which has been supporting efforts over the past seven years to reunify a country split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and a rebel-held north.

Mr. Gbagbo has demanded UNOCI's departure, which the UN has rejected, and the mission is now protecting Mr. Ouattara and his Government in the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, surrounded by regular and irregular forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy last week briefed the Council on ethnic strife in western Côte d'Ivoire and the constant barrage of hate propaganda directed against UNOCI from State radio and television that remain under Mr. Gbagbo's control.

In a press statement today the Council reiterated its readiness to impose targeted sanctions against those impeding the peace process and UNOCI's work. It again demanded an immediate end to the media campaign of incitement and hatred and deplored the continued blockade of the Golf Hotel where Mr. Ouattara and his Government is installed under UN protection.

The Council welcomed the efforts of the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which have been shuttling back and forth to Abidjan seeking Mr. Gbagbo's peaceful departure, encouraged their continued engagement, and called on all sides to respect the will of the people as expressed in the elections.

It also deplored all acts of violence against civilians and UNOCI and warned that the perpetrators would be held accountable.

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