|Families take shelter in the Catholic Mission in the western town of Duékoué|
ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, 24 May 2011 – UNICEF is concerned about the situation of children and women in the southwestern province of Bas-Sassandra in Côte d’Ivoire. Weeks of clashes near the town of Soubré have triggered population displacements and prevented UN aid agencies from accessing affected people to deliver life-saving assistance.
The volatile security situation has already halted a rapid response immunization campaign planned with the Ministry of Health and WHO to curtail the spread of a form of polio - three confirmed cases of the poliovirus type 3 - not reported in Côte d’Ivoire since 2000. "This recent outbreak of insecurity is putting on hold key child survival activities such as vaccinating against polio which would prevent children from being exposed to a virus that could leave them paralyzed for life,” said Hervé Ludovic de Lys, UNICEF Representative in Côte d’Ivoire. A national polio immunization campaign, including the district of Soubré, is planned for 27-30 May 2011 if security conditions allow it.
Preliminary field information gathered by UNICEF non-governmental partners in Bas-Sassandra indicate that between 4,000 and 6,000 internally displaced persons, mostly women and children, have been accommodated by local authorities in two makeshift sites in Soubré since 16 May. UNICEF and government counterparts are currently gathering additional information on the situation of children and women, but regional education authorities have already confirmed that many schools in the Sassandra and Gabiadji areas remain closed due to violence and looting.
“As the country is getting on the path to stability and recovery we should not overlook pressing humanitarian needs in localized areas of the country where swift humanitarian response is still required to save the life of women and children,” added Ludovic de Lys.
The efforts of the Government is supported with rapid response to critical needs that remain unmet such as decent shelters, water and sanitation facilities, emergency health services to name a few. The risk of wide-spread epidemics is becoming high with the poor health conditions of displaced populations being compounded by the start of the rainy season and the poor quality of health services delivery in the current post-crisis situation.
UNICEF fears that the overall conditions of displaced women and children could further deteriorate if safe humanitarian access is not quickly restored to allow rapid assessments and delivery of aid. The situation could possibly be worse in other parts of the southwest region of Côte d'Ivoire but so far the lack of safe access does not allow aid agencies to draw a clear picture of the situation on the ground.
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UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
For further information, please contact:
Louis Vigneault-Dubois, Head of Communication, UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire
Mobile: (+225) 04 03 50 44,