I was disturbed to read that 450,000 people have thus far been displaced by the conflict, including 300,000 in Abidjan’s Abobo district alone. When such large numbers of people are displaced in a short amount of time, it’s very difficult for aid agencies to respond adequately. Insufficient pre-positioned supplies, a lack of access to the communities where the displaced find themselves, and a tense operating environment complicate humanitarian interventions. In these situations, a majority of the displaced end up with friends, relatives – sometimes strangers – and are difficult for aid agencies to reach. The ICRC has been able to provide shelter for about 500 residents of the Abobo district in temporary reception centers. Displacement further implies slowed down economic productivity, and loss of income for households. It places a lot of pressure on host households, and, when such massive numbers of people are on the move, displacement in times of conflict is a source of significant tension.
Philippe Beauverd of the ICRC in Abidjan notes that his organization is “particularly concerned that young people from various factions, who are armed with knives and cudgels, seem to be completely out of control. They have set up barricades in some streets and are venting their anger on the local people.”
Meanwhile, neighboring Liberia – itself recovering from war and with at least 20,000 citizens living as refugees in Côte d’Ivoire – has welcomed about 75,000 Ivoirians fleeing violence in the west. A lack of infrastructure makes providing humanitarian aid in that remote part of Liberia a logistical nightmare, and while the UNHCR is building camps to provide shelter, many of the refugees have been taken in by local communities, creating the same kinds of issues described above. Matt Jones, who blogs over at Moved2Monrovia, produced this map to show where Ivoirian people have taken refuge in Liberia (I highly recommend reading the whole post):