One of the thousands of families displaced in western and south-east Cote d’Ivoire who are in need of adequate shelter. Pressure on internally displaced persons (IDPs) to leave camps has grown as private owners of empty buildings, including churches and schools, try to regain their property. – Several thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in western and south-east Cote d’Ivoire living in very poor conditions at displacement sites are in urgent need of adequate shelter.
Most of the displaced are living in makeshift shelters, offering little protection from the short rainy season now beginning.
Many among them have either been evicted from privately owned sites where they sought refuge in the post-electoral violence early this year or are about to face eviction.
Fourteen IDP sites have been closed in the past few months, forcing 800 families into secondary displacement or seeking shelter with host communities. Another 15 sites currently hosting 1,250 families are under imminent threat of eviction.
Pressure on IDPs to leave camps has grown as private owners of empty buildings, including churches and schools, try to regain their property. The growing number of evictions is also adding to the human insecurity and health of the IDPs with many suffering grief and stress-related conditions.
An estimated 600,000 people were sheltering in displacement camps at the peak of the post-election conflict in April 2011. According to IOM, which collects and provides key information on internal displacement in Côte d’Ivoire to the humanitarian community working there, this number has fallen dramatically to nearly 26,000 people in 35 sites.
IOM is currently managing 10 IDP sites in Guiglo and Duékoué in the western region of Moyen Cavally sheltering more than 17,100 IDPs. They represent 66 per cent of the total number of those still displaced.
Those still living in displacement sites are mainly people whose homes were destroyed in the conflict or those who fear that people now occupying their land will refuse to leave as a result of long-standing inter-ethnic and land-tenure issues.
However, the number of displaced people living with host communities is still believed to be high.
Those IDPs who have returned to their homes have done so either because the security situation in their area is more stable or because they need to harvest crops and plant for the next season.
However, their situation is also dire having returned to villages where many houses were damaged or destroyed and key community infrastructure such as schools, health centres and wells either looted or no longer working.
“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,” says David Coomber, IOM Chief of Mission in Côte d’Ivoire. “In parallel, ethnic and land issues have also to be resolved in a durable way if we are to avoid seeing a repetition of conflict and forced migration.
“IOM is beginning work on providing transitional shelter to some of the internally displaced and returnees. In a bid to promote greater social cohesion in a region that has been witness to long-standing tension and conflict fuelled by land tenure issues between native Ivoirians and migrant workers from the sub-region, the Organization, together with other agencies, is also planning on carrying out additional “Go and See” visits for those considering returning home. This is in addition to carrying out assessment missions to various areas to gauge on-going humanitarian needs.
IOM is also mediating between the different ethnic communities to ensure children are allowed into schools or bringing women together in discussion groups to tackle pressing and social issues.
“Our focus is on recovery. However, to make significant inroads on finding durable solutions, these actions have to be dramatically scaled up. For that, we desperately need funding. There will be new elections in December this year which could result in renewed instability or conflict if concrete actions are not taken now,” Coomber adds.
Since it launched an appeal for USD 41.6 million for its operations in Côte d’Ivoire and four neighbouring countries, early this year, it has received just under USD 4 million in total. This has come from the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the EU’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) and the Australian Agency for International Development (Aus AID).