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31-03-2011 | Africa

Cote d'Ivoire: ICRC worried by civilians' fate in conflict


At a press conference in Geneva (31.03.11), ICRC head of operations Pierre Kraehenbuehl said that the situation in Cote d'Ivoire now amounted to an internal armed conflict, causing thousands of casualties and widespread displacements of population.

Pierre Kraehenbuehl explained that a widespread phenomenon is multiple rounds of looting attributed firstly to militias or armed groups loyal to both sides. In such situations, this is typically accompanied by violence against civilians, which could include physical and sexual violence.

While the ICRC in Côte d'Ivoire has already reminded all parties to the conflict of their obligations under IHL - among them sparing civilians and distinguishing between military and civilian targets - the organization has noted that, in addition to an upsurge in the fighting, law and order has broken down in certain places, causing tens of thousands of civilians to flee the fighting and looting.

The ICRC head of operations announced that the organization was calling for an additional 20,5 million Swiss francs, 15 million for Côte d'Ivoire and 5,5 million for Liberia where over 110,000 refugees have sought a safe haven according to the UN. This budget extension will be dedicated to providing emergency relief and ensuring access to safe water and health care for displaced, residents and people deprived of their freedoom.

Pierre Kraehenbuehl said that medical stocks as well as stocks for the treatment of water are running out in many parts of the country.

Says Pierre Kraehenbuehl: "The ICRC and the Ivorian Red Cross are generally well accepted but this cannot be taken for granted. As tensions are running high, check-points are numerous, behaviour by fighters often unpredictable and rejection of foreign presence is already felt." The prospect of an all-out armed confrontation in the country's main urban centres such as Abidjan is of particular worry to the ICRC.

Video of the press conference can be downloaded in MPEG2 format along with the dopesheet.

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