By Moustapha Diallo in Côte d’Ivoire
A month ago, when the post-election violence had reached its climax in Côte d'Ivoire, several humanitarian agencies suspended their operations. The Red Cross of Côte d’Ivoire was one of the few organisations to brave the danger and insecurity to provide support to communities affected by the violence.
Dr. Leonard Nioulé Zeadé, Secretary General of the Red Cross of Côte d’Ivoire, said volunteers played an enormous part in providing comfort and care at a distressing, dangerous time. “Insecurity was everywhere, the risk enormous, our volunteers were the only people on the ground to provide assistance to people in distress,” he said.
With exceptional courage, volunteers from the Red Cross of Côte d’Ivoire worked tirelessly, even when the fighting was intense, to provide life-saving support to people affected by the crisis.
In Abidjan and in the west where the fighting was the most violent, they set aside their fears to provide first aid to the injured and to evacuate the most serious cases to health facilities.
Food and household items were distributed and latrines were built in the sites for those internally displaced. To provide access to drinking water, the volunteers disinfected and treated thousands of wells with chlorine, and also conducted awareness campaigns on good hygiene practices.
Today, with improved security in Côte d’Ivoire, the national Red Cross continues to play an active role in humanitarian assistance in affected areas with the support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and ICRC.
In some localities in the west, such as Duekoue, Guiglo, Blolequin, Toulepleu, the mobile clinics of the Red Cross of Côte d’Ivoire, supported by the ICRC, provide free care to people.
Ula Jean Yoro, Health Coordinator of the Red Cross of Côte d'Ivoire in Duekoue said many needing treatment had turned to the Red Cross, but that continuing needs were immense. “Most health facilities have been looted and are not functional through lack of equipment. In some cases, the return of medical personnel has not happened as the majority deserted the zone during the conflict.”
Volunteers are conducting outreach activities on good hygiene practices with the support of the IFRC. In most parts of the country, they are also involved in campaigns against cholera and yellow fever in partnership with UNICEF and MSF.
Despite the efforts of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations, the needs of those affected by the crisis are enormous. Thousands of people remain displaced in the west and live in very precarious conditions where water, food and latrines and health services are lacking.
Most houses are severely damaged or destroyed, forcing their occupants to move. Some want to return home but don’t have the money to repair their houses. Others are waiting for better security guarantees. In many cases, returned families are facing problems of shelter, food, health and access to water and livelihoods. Without means and assistance, it will be difficult to rebuild their lives.