July 21 2011

Aid for families in the aftermath of the Ivorian conflict

21/07/2011 - Duékoué, a town in the mountainous region of Moyen-Cavally in the west of Côte d'Ivoire, witnessed the heaviest fighting during the recent conflict. Although peace is slowly being restored, the situation of many families remains precarious. SOS Children's Villages will help the most vulnerable families in the area.

Photo: Michela Morosini
Photo: Michela Morosini
The violent conflicts between rivaling parties in Côte d'Ivoire following the disputed presidential elections in November 2010 left hundreds of civilians dead in the western region of the country. Hundreds of thousands of people fled from the violence to neighbouring countries.

With a population of 75,000, the town of Duékoué has seen some of the worst violence in Côte d'Ivoire since the 2002 rebellion. As in other regions of the West, there was a long-established divide between the original owners of the land and Malinké from the North, Baoulé from the central regions, and Burkinabé. While Duékoué was relatively peaceful during the October-November presidential elections, violence resurfaced in January. Subsequent clashes mainly between Guéré and Malinké communities resulted in heavy casualties and a huge influx of local residents into the town's Catholic mission, which has hosted thousands of displaced persons at different points over the past decade.

Families in Duékoué urgently need help

The clashes have worsened the already precarious living conditions in this area. Children are especially at risk. An assessment of the situation regarding children’s rights conducted by SOS Children's Villages Côte d'Ivoire revealed the urgency of providing comprehensive support to the most vulnerable families in Duékoué. Families and specifically children have insufficient access to education, health care, water and sanitation. Housing and food insecurity prevails, in addition to the growing insecurity that threatens the peace in Duékoué.

If nothing is done to help homeless families get back on their feet, the dismal living conditions will aggravate the psychological trauma of both children and their parents. In a worst-case scenario, this could result in the abandonment of children. Many women who are pregnant or have recently given birth face especially difficult and potentially dangerous conditions for their newborn babies’ fragile health.

Aid programme for most vulnerable children

SOS Children's Villages Côte d'Ivoire is therefore starting a one-year emergency relief programme to improve the health care situation and food security for 800 children aged 0-17 and 200 parents in an effort to strengthen families and prevent child abandonment. SOS Children's Villages has also been approached regarding the plight of 20 orphaned children who might be admitted to the SOS Children's Village in Abidjan and/or the one in Aboisso.

Ultimately, the intervention of SOS Children's Villages Côte d'Ivoire aims to lastingly improve the areas of education, health care, food security, the reissuing of children's birth certificates, psychological support, training on child rights and child care, financing of income-generating activities for caregivers, and the reconstruction or renovation of damaged or destroyed homes.

Food situation
Food packages supplied by various agencies including the World Food Programme as well as gifts from the Ivorian population are being distributed at five different sites in Dékoué. These food packages typically consist of rice, oil, sugar and energy biscuits, and are given to children suffering from malnutrition. However, the food packages often do not cover the amount of protein that malnourished children require to regain their health.

Health situation
The food distribution sites offer access to drinking water through water pumps and reservoirs installed by the ICRC and supplied with water by SODECI. Community latrines were also installed at the sites. Nevertheless, conditions are unhygienic due to the proximity of living and eating areas to the latrines. Malaria, skin diseases, and diarrhoea are common and Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross, and staff from ASAPSU General Hospital Duekoue are providing medical care. Still, there is a lack of personal care products and widespread immunization sessions.

Education situation
The school resumed in Duékoué at the end of January. Given the mistrust that creates a climate of insecurity, schools in some areas are still closed. A large number of students from kindergartens and elementary schools needs to be reintegrated (in the target area there are 694 children aged 3 to 5 years and 615 children aged 9 to 13 years). The Catholic Mission School has opened its doors to displaced children. Despite this measure, many children still lack access to school. It is planned to install classrooms made from tarps to accommodate the additional pupils. To do so would require desks, kits, and school uniforms for children who have lost everything. A school canteen would ensure balanced and healthy meals for students. Elementary school students have received school kits from organisations like UNICEF; high school students have not yet received school kits.

Legal situation
Because many houses burned and looted, people have lost their identity documents, diplomas and other important documents. Today, everything has to be redone.

Psychosocial support
People are traumatized by the events they have experienced. In the context of psychosocial support, social centers and some psychologists made available by ASAPSU provide psychosocial care. In addition, the spiritual support provided on site by the religious groups contributes to the psychosocial balance of these families, including heads of household. SOS Children's Villages will assist in strengthening psychosocial care with special focus on traumatised children.

Housing situation
The assessment reports 450 houses burnt. They are threatened by rain, sun, and other natural conditions. The families need sheets, mats, buckets, kitchen utensils, renovation and/or reconstruction of their homes, and similar needs.

Evacuated children to return in August
In March 2011, the children, youth and staff of the SOS Children’s Village in Abidjan had been evacuated to the SOS Children’s Village Aboisso due to the violent unrest in the capital. It is expected that the situation will be safe enough to allow them to return in August.