Displaced people face shortages in Yamoussoukro

A shortage of food and medical aid is threatening the lives of several thousands of displaced people living in Cote d’ivoire’s administrative capital, Yamoussoukro, a Catholic nun told IRIN on Thursday.

Yamoussoukro, 266 km north of Abidjan and an hour away from the rebel-held town of Bouake, has some 27,500 internally displaced people (IDPs) living in 4 major camps and with host families.

Local humanitarian workers said that 80 percent of the displaced population lacked sufficient food, medicine and non-food items.

Sister Sophie Myriam, who runs the internally displaced center of Mie-Gou, the largest settlement of its kind in Yamoussoukro, said the camp had suffered from a lack of food and medical aid since April. Sister Myriam said she lacked money to purchase the basic necessities, while the center had not received any aid distribution in weeks.

Mie-Gou, which was set-up shortly after the beginning of the Ivorian crisis in September 2002, hosted more 2,500 people at the height of the war. Many of them have left, but Sister Myriem and a handful of staff are caring for some 480 people who have a hard time finding food.

Since April, four children have died in Mie-Gou. According to Mie-Gou workers, the children had fallen sick

"I don’t visit the Mie-Gou center anymore because it hurts me to see the displaced suffer without being able to help them," Yamoussoukro’s prefect, Gilbert Hori Ahipo, told IRIN.

Nevertheless, the Japanese embassy recently donated some US $31,000 which allowed the distribution of 2 tons of rice, oil and other non-food items. Another 40 bags of rice would be distributed to a number of host families.

Because food has become a privileged need, the remaining displaced have changed their eating habits:

"We’ve decided that the 185 children of the camp should eat first, and if there’s anything left, the remaing 296 adults can share," a teary-eye displaced boy, Archille Tehoua said.

In addition to food and medicine, the displaced people also face the risks of gender based violence. The president of the Ivorian Associaltion for Family Well-Being (AIBF), Marie-Claire Ade, told IRIN that two young girls had recently been raped in Yamoussoukro. One of them had since died.

Ade said a portion of the Japanese fund would be used to conduct sex-education campaign in Yamoussoukro and in the western town of Duekoue. Twelve sex educators are to be deployed in the two towns.

She said it was imperative for IDPs to adopt a "responsible sexual behaviour."