Ivorian crisis affects other ECOWAS citizens, say UN agencies

Accra- Ghana (PANA) -- Officials of UN agencies in the West Africa sub-region said in Accra Thursday that the armed conflict in Cote d'Ivoire has adversely affected several thousands of other ECOWAS nationals and called for concerted efforts to prevent further escalation of the crisis.
"Indeed, the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire calls for swift and innovative approaches to crisis prevention, management and response as the implication of a further deterioration of the situation could spell disaster for the country itself and the sub-region," said Besida Tonwe of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
She said at the opening of an emergency inter-UN agencies Meeting, on the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire in Accra, that a common action plan should be developed to ameliorate the humanitarian crisis emanating from the armed conflict.
Officials of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Food Programme made presentations at the meeting, organised by the OCHA.
At least 2,000 Ghanaians, 700,000 Niger nationals, two million Malians, 250,000 Burkinabe, 200,000 Benin citizens and 70,000 Togolese have been reported displaced by the fighting, which broke 19 September between government troops and Ivorian mutinous soldiers.
The immediate concern for these displaced people, according to OCHA, is adequate food and shelter in addition to finding the means of transporting them out of the conflict zone.
Tonwe said the turn of events since September 19 has "startled most Ivorians and shocked the sub-region," prompting the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to appoint a Special Representative to help ease the tension.
She said the Accra meeting would take a common position on the repatriation of West African nationals, immigrants and refugees and the protection of civilians in government and rebel controlled areas.
The meeting is also expected to establish linkages between humanitarian and political initiatives and agree on the "prioritisation of beneficiaries.
" Alfred Salia Fawundu, UN Resident Representative in Ghana said: "it is important for the sub-region to face conflicts squarely," adding that West Africa has a history of conflicts and that the UN should work in tandem with governments to address fundamental issues and watch out for the causes of the crises.

17 october 2002 19:28:00




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