In parts of Côte d’Ivoire’s main city Abidjan, buildings and faces bear traces of war and people wonder when their children will be able to eat their fill again.
“We’re living in hell,” said teacher Rodrigue Assié Kah in the city’s Yopougon District. “I’ve got no work and I’ve got six people to feed.” He was sitting alone in front of an apartment building part of which was burned when government forces recently came looking for pro-Laurent Gbagbo groups.
The 50-year-old had planned to retire in two years, but he has not saved up enough to stop working now and the private school where he worked has been closed since the post-election violence began.
But Assié at least has a room to live in, even if widespread looting has left it completely bare. Hundreds of families have no home to return to; in some areas, houses have been flattened by shelling.
In Yopougon and Abobo - two districts that saw heavy fighting - many people’s livelihoods were destroyed along with their homes, according to the NGO Solidarités International.
Solidarités is evaluating several sectors including security, water/sanitation, health and shelter in Abidjan and other parts of the country affected by conflict.
Down to one meal a day
In Abobo, of 573 households surveyed, nearly half reported having no source of income; about 40 of those families lost their livelihood in the post-election unrest, according to the Solidarités evaluation. Forty percent of the families said they have gone from eating three meals a day to one.
Among those surveyed in Yopougon the number of families eating just one meal a day increased seven times compared to before the crisis. People there are spending on average 36 percent more for basic food items. In Abobo, a kilogram of rice is up to 88 US cents from 55 cents; sugar is $7.05 compared to $6.17; a handful of tomatoes costs four times as much as before, and fresh fish has nearly doubled in price.
“A lot of families have lost everything,” said Rolland Gueneau, Solidarités International head of mission in Côte d’Ivoire. He said the Ivoirian people’s solidarity is “admirable” and they are coming to one another’s aid, but this is becoming a heavy economic burden.
“The most pressing need is food, then mosquito nets.”
“Generally families take one meal a day - usually `garba’ [fish and cassava],” 28-year-old nurse Albertine Anoh told IRIN.
“For the moment we cannot live as we did before,” she said, explaining that no money is coming in after her husband lost several public transport vehicles in the fighting.
Observers say it will take time for people to recover after the fighting, especially in places like Yopougon, where many neighbourhoods were bastions of the now-detained Gbagbo.
“If we are to have a real basis for reconciliation [in Côte d’Ivoire], it must start in Yopougon,” Ivoirian political analyst Romain Kacou told IRIN. He noted that Gbagbo had the support of a considerable chunk of voters. “This district must be a top priority in any peace process.”
Thousands of displaced people in Abidjan and other parts of the country told Solidarités they could not say when they would return to their homes; the current uncertainty remains a challenge for aid groups.
“It is not an exact science knowing how the situation will evolve and when people will return to their homes,” Gueneau of Solidarités said. “And we do not know what tomorrow will bring. We must really be careful not to push people to return when they are not ready to do so.”
A youth who requested anonymity said he recently went down a familiar Yopougon road he had not used since before the unrest. “I’m telling you, Yopougon’s face is deformed. Bullet marks are everywhere and neighbourhoods are deserted. Damn, war is terrible.”
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions