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Côte d'Ivoire

Juliana's story: Recovering from the violence in Côte d’Ivoire

© UNICEF 2011/Côte d’Ivoire/Monier
Juliana, 13, with her aunt, Christine Gbela, in front of their tent at the Catholic Mission camp for displaced people in Duékoué, Côte d’Ivoire.

By Cifora Monier

DUÉKOUÉ, Côte d’Ivoire, 6 June 2011 – In late March, heavy shooting broke out in the village of Niambly in western Côte d’Ivoire. Juliana Glomao, 13, and her family had to flee quickly.

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“We had to run very fast with the other women and children of the village, otherwise the armed men told us they would kill us as they were about to do to the men of the village,” said Christine Gbela, Juliana’s maternal aunt.

But her niece didn’t make it out safely. In the chaos of pushing, shoving and shooting, a petrified Juliana lost grip of her aunt’s hand.

“I was out of my wits,” said Ms. Gbela. “I cannot even explain to you what was going on in my mind. One minute I was holding Juliana’s hand and the next minute she was no longer there.”

Ms. Gbela – who has raised Juliana since her mother died when she was just 5-years-old – had no other option but to walk on, a further six hours until she reached the Catholic Mission in Duékoué. The Mission is where the majority of displaced Ivorians have sought refuge for the last six months in the aftermath of the country’s post-electoral violence.

Once she arrived, Ms. Gbela immediately began to search for Juliana.  Nobody had seen her, the population themselves dazed from their own traumas.

From relief to sorrow

Two days later, a neighbour from Ms. Gbela’s village came running to her tent in the camp to inform them they had seen Juliana being wheel-barrowed to the medical centre set-up at the Catholic Mission.

Ms. Gbela immediately ran to the medical centre and found Juliana lying unconscious covered in blood on a mat, her right foot totally disfigured. “I started crying when I saw her out of relief and out of shock, there was so much blood,” said Ms. Gbela.

© UNICEF 2011/Côte d’Ivoire/Monier
Juliana was separated from her family as they fled violence in their village in western Côte d’Ivoire. She lost her foot, and is now receiving UNICEF-supported psycho-social care in Duékoué.

Juliana had been shot in her right foot. She was soon transferred to a better-equipped medical centre in the small town of Bangolo, 50 km from Duékoué. Ms. Gbela accompanied Juliana and stayed with her for three weeks. The prognosis was not good.

“A young doctor came to see me after examining Juliana. He told me that they would have to cut off her foot,” Ms. Gbela. “I could not understand or believe what he was saying to me. I just said that I wanted her to get better and if he had to cut her foot, then he had to do it.”

Juliana was unconscious for a week. When she finally regained consciousness, she could not speak. To help her cope with the trauma she has experienced, she has been receiving medical treatment from social workers at the Catholic Mission, supported by UNICEF and partners.

Regaining her strength

Cecile Koffi has been working with Juliana for over a month. “She has made enormous progress,” said Ms. Koffi, a social worker for the Listening Centre at the Catholic Mission in partnership with Association de Soutien à l'Autopromotion Sanitaire et Urbaine, a non-governmental organization that promotes urban health. “She can talk now and has been able to recall some of what happened to her.”

The process to help Juliana is on-going, as it is with ensuring appropriate care for all of the children affected by violence in Côte d’Ivoire.

“UNICEF and partners have worked together to set up centres in sites for displaced people to provide support to separated children,” said Laetitia Bazzi, UNICEF Chief of Child Protection in Côte d’Ivoire. “We are now stepping up our activities outside these sites…and providing psycho-social support.”

When asked how she was feeling, Juliana said she wants “be normal” and to get back to playing with her friends. “I want to laugh and smile again, but my foot which they cut off still hurts me, so I stay more inside our tent.”

Reunited with her aunt and extended family, Juliana will continue to receive the necessary psycho-social support and care that she needs while she and her family wait to return home.




3 June 2011 - UNICEF Chief of Child Protection in Côte d’Ivoire Laetitia Bazzi discusses the organization’s response to helping separated children reunite with their families in the aftermath of the country’s post-electoral violence.
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