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Bridging the aid gap post-conflict

Women and children at a nutritional centre in Korhogo, northern Côte d'Ivoire. March 2009
Women and children at a nutritional centre in Korhogo, northern Côte d'Ivoire (Nancy Palus/IRIN)

Nearly three years from the signing of a peace agreement in Côte d’Ivoire, emergency operations are slowing but humanitarian needs remain, aid workers say. More funds are needed to support the transition from humanitarian to development.

Côte d’Ivoire, like many other post-conflict states, faces an ill-defined period when the emergency has waned but needs remain acute and the people's living conditions precarious, said Julie Bélanger, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"Developmental actors are not yet here in full force and many humanitarian agencies have pulled out,” she said. “We are still trying to bridge the gaps, make sure things don’t explode, and ensure people are seeing the dividends of peace."

The UN will not make a country-specific humanitarian appeal in 2010, but rather will request US$54 million through a regional appeal, according to UN humanitarian coordinator and deputy UN representative in Côte d’Ivoire Georg Charpentier.

OCHA is pulling out of Man and Zou in the west, Korhogo in the north and Bouake in the centre in December. In Guiglo OCHA will continue to support the UN refugee agency UNHCR's protection monitoring role, according to Bélanger.

But many aid agencies filling public service gaps such as supporting hospitals to fight malnutrition, are struggling to find funding, said head of NGO Merlin, Eric Gerard. The Swedish international development agency SIDA funds Merlin’s malnutrition response in the west but the NGO’s funding is not guaranteed through 2010.

Just half of the World Food Programme’s funding requirements were met between 2007 and 2009, WFP’s Côte d’Ivoire representative Alain Cordeil told IRIN.

And support for many of the other NGOs that remain in the country is hard to secure beyond the short-term, aid workers told IRIN.

“Donors are not very transition-oriented” Sebastien de la Pinntière, head of the Danish Refugee Council, told IRIN. He said Côte d’Ivoire’s long-time image as West Africa’s strongest economy has donors overlooking the increasing poverty and lingering humanitarian problems. “Côte d’Ivoire is like the emperor’s new clothes. Its international image is very different from the reality.”


Chronic malnutrition rates are at critical levels in the north and west, according to a preliminary government and UN survey.

Public service delivery in Côte d’Ivoire has been weak before, during and after the conflict, say observers. And since the 2002 rebellion that split the country between a government-controlled south and rebel-held north, in parts of the north hospitals and schools now “barely function”, according to Gerard.

Ivoirians have become increasingly vulnerable to shocks such as high food or commodity prices as the proportion living on less than $1.25 per day is just under 50 percent, up from 38 percent in 2000 according to a November 2008 government assessment.

The humanitarian needs in Côte d’Ivoire are not vast but they are complicated, said the UN’s Charpentier. “The west is a mini problem in comparison to say Somalia – and just a few thousand people are involved…but it is very complex to resolve.” 

Transition fund

The need to keep a humanitarian pipeline open prompted the UN to push for a transition fund. Donors backed the idea at a July UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) meeting but so far have not committed any funding.

Lucien Houedanou, spokesperson for the European Commission, the biggest donor in Côte d’Ivoire, told IRIN the EC’s focus has firmly shifted to development. The EC humanitarian aid department (ECHO) pulled out in 2007. The commission will give $319 million to reinforce social cohesion and build up government structures from 2008-13.

“We have close coordination with our partners and if we are not focusing on malnutrition, coordination will ensure that our bilateral and multilateral partners will be addressing it,” 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

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