17 February 2006

Emergency Relief Coordinator Deplores Destruction in Guiglo , Côte d'Ivoire

GUIGLO/ NEW YORK, 16 February (OCHA) -- "I am profoundly shocked at the level of destruction I have seen here today," said Jan Egeland, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, on the second day of his three-day mission to the West African country of Côte d'Ivoire.  "I am even more deeply concerned about those here who have been deprived at the humanitarian aid they so urgently need due to the disruption of aid work," Mr. Egeland added.

The Under-Secretary-General was speaking after viewing the offices of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Guiglo, attacked on 18 January.  During the attacks in Guiglo, other aid agencies affected included the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture organization (FAO), Save the Children, ASA (Afrique Secours Assistance), Caritas, Solidarité and Gesellshaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ).  Buildings were seriously damaged and looted; warehouses and staff quarters were also looted and vandalized; and at least 23 vehicles were burned or seriously damaged.

"This senseless destruction comes at a time when the aid community in Côte d'Ivoire is striving to help some 3.5 million people, including up to 600,000 displaced Ivorians," Mr. Egeland said. Of these, more than 700,000 receive food aid and 1.5 million receive clean water.  The evacuation of aid workers from Guiglo has meant that many programmes there have been temporarily suspended, including emergency school feeding for 35,000 children, agricultural and livestock support programmes for more than 40,000 people, water and sanitation projects and mobile health clinics.  For 2006, the aid community has requested $40.5 million for assistance and another $25 million for food aid for Côte d'Ivoire and three other West African countries.

The Government of Côte d'Ivoire has assured the United Nations that such violence would not be allowed to occur in future, and that actions will be taken to prevent it.  The aid community will also have regular meetings with the Government to discuss concrete measures to protect civilians and the neutrality of humanitarian work.

During his mission to Guiglo, Mr. Egeland met local authorities and visited a centre for internally displaced persons and a primary school.  Later in the day, he departed for Bouake, to meet key humanitarian actors, as well as Soro Guillaume, head of the Forces Nouvelles.  This evening, he is scheduled to meet the Prime Minister, Charles Konan Banny.  On 17 February he is scheduled to meet with the Head of State, Laurent Gbagbo; the International Working Group; and General Elrick Irastorza of Licorne.

For further information, please call: Pierre Marie N'Gore, OCHA-CdI, +225 2240 5172, mobile +225 0769 2094; Kristen Knutson, OCHA-CdI, +225 2240 5181, mobile +225 0707 2709; Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 892 1679; Elizabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile +41 79 473 4570.

* *** *