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Press release

Child survival threatened by instability in Cote d’Ivoire

UNICEF continues to appeal for restoration of electricity and water in the North

DAKAR - 11 November, 2004 - As civil unrest continues to engulf Cote D’Ivoire, UNICEF again calls on all parties to the conflict to ensure basic services and humanitarian access throughout the country. Water and electricity to large parts of the north have been cut for over a week.

“It is imperative that water and electricity supplies be immediately restored in the north by the Ivorian authorities, otherwise the health status of already vulnerable populations - including over 2 million children and women - may deteriorate sharply in just a matter of days,” said UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Rima Salah. “The lack of access to safe drinking water greatly heightens the risk of water born diseases like cholera and diarrhea, which can be deadly killers to the most vulnerable: young children. Already people are reduced to drinking unclean, unsafe river water in the north.”

UNICEF is extremely concerned that Bouake, Korhogo and large areas of the north have now been without electricity or a safe, dependable water supply for over a week.  Areas of the west, such as the town of Man, are experiencing only sporadic electricity and water supplies. In addition to the risk of disease due to the lack of safe water, the lack of electricity is having a serious negative impact on the health services that hospitals and health centers are able to provide throughout the north.  Access to safe drinking water was already alarmingly low countrywide, with over 65% of hand pumps in rural areas no longer functioning.  The figure runs to over 80% of pumps non-functioning in some zones of the west.

“If this insecurity continues, we risk losing two years of steady progress made by the national reconciliation government, most importantly in terms of getting schools and health care services open again in the north,” added Salah. “Together, we must do everything possible to continue building on the progress made for children in Cote d’Ivoire.”

UNICEF has provided emergency medical supplies and drugs for some 68 health centers in and around Bouake, Ivory Coast’s second largest city, as an initial humanitarian response to the emergency that is unfolding in the country. In an effort to save precious doses of routine vaccines stored in Bouake, UNICEF has also provided fuel to maintain their cold storage for another 3 to 5 days. 

UNICEF calls on all parties to the conflict to take every action necessary to ensure that public services such as health centers and schools continue to function properly, and that the rights of children and women be fully respected. Throughout the week, schools have been closed in Abidjan and other parts of the country. Schools provide a protective environment and a sense of normalcy for children and their communities during times of crisis.

The medical kits and essential drugs supplied by UNICEF Cote d’Ivoire will be distributed in Bouake by ICRC, and were financed by the European Union.  Items include antibiotics, chloroquine, disposable syringes, rehydration serum and essential drugs.

For further information, please contact:

UNICEF Cote d’Ivoire: Jeff Brez: +225-05-853118 or +221-869-5858; jabrez@unicef.org
UNICEF West and Central Africa Region: Kent Page: +221-545-8580 or +221-869-5876: kpage@unicef.org
UNICEF Geneva: Damien Personnaz: +41-22-909-5716 or +41-79-216-9401: dpersonnaz@unicef.org
UNICEF New York: Oliver Phillips: +1-212-326-7583: ophillips@unicef.org





11 November 2004: Regional Director for West and Central Africa- Rima Salah stresses the need for water and electricity to be restored in Cote D'Ivoire

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