Almost half a million Ivoirians remain displaced five months after the country’s post-electoral civil conflict ended, afraid of returning to their homes for fear of reprisals, while a sluggish response to funding appeals means living conditions for many are getting worse.
A 12 October report by NGOs Oxfam, CARE and the Danish Refugee Council warned of a two-thirds shortfall in the UN appeal for emergency funding to deal with around 450,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the country, as living conditions for many deteriorated.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has received just 10 percent of the US$41.6 million it has called for to help return displaced people to their homes, or to build shelters in new sites, according to IOM spokesperson Gabriel Mathieu.
“Among those interviewed, food is the overwhelming priority, with 77 percent of returnees and 83 percent of displaced people saying they do not have enough to eat. Shelter is another major challenge hindering sustainable returns,” said Oxfam’s regional humanitarian coordinator for West Africa, Philippe Conraud.
Funding shortfalls meant relief distributions to IDP sites in the west had been scaled down to focus only on the most vulnerable, according to Mathieu.
“Precarious conditions” for returnees
While there has been an improvement in overall security since the conflict ended in April, conditions for many of the 500,000 who have returned to their communities remain fragile. Many who were driven to return home to seek an income live in sites without water and sanitation facilities. They are often living in “very precarious conditions, without the support required to ensure that return is a durable solution and - like those who remain displaced in camps or host families -they are highly dependent on aid to restore their livelihoods”, the report said.
In some cases, displaced people have been forced to move on, as IDP sites - some in schools, some in churches - are closing down. At least 800 families evicted from 14 sites in the west are now living in makeshift shelters with no protection from the elements, according to IOM.
"Transitional shelter is urgently needed for the displaced, particularly for those who want to return to their home villages but can't because their homes were destroyed," David Coomber, IOM chief of mission in Côte d'Ivoire, said in a recent communiqué.
Security has remained a problem since former president Laurent Gbagbo was ousted on 11 April following months of fighting which left 3,000 dead. Residents from the commercial capital Abidjan, said that despite overall peace, tensions remain high in neighbourhoods such as Abobo and Yopougon.
“Vengeance in the air”
Jean Parfait Atse, a 26-year-old student, said he was moved on from two different shelters before ending up with a family friend in the capital, Yamoussoukro. “I have never killed anyone; I was part of a group of friends who were from all political sides. But because my elder brother was a [pro-Gbagbo] policeman, now my family can’t go back to Abobo - we are afraid of the [pro-Ouattara] FRCI soldiers everywhere,” he told IRIN.
“There are certain neighbourhoods in Abobo which are still abandoned by anyone who supported Gbagbo; you can feel the spirit of vengeance in the air.”
NGOs are calling for “sustained support” in the west, which has seen ethnic disputes between indigenous tribes and settlers for years. But in post-conflict response situations, donor finances often fall off, stressed IOM’s Mathieu.
Xavier Gnana, a cocoa grower, fled the western town of Guiglo in late March after his cocoa warehouse was burnt down. “Until the legislative elections [scheduled for 11 December] pass off peacefully, I am too scared to go back… there is still lawlessness. Any person who had a petty argument with you can act outside the law with no consequences,” he said.
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