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Violence forces UN to suspend ops in Côte d'Ivoire

Violence forces UN’s World Food Programme to suspend operations in Côte d’Ivoire

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), forced to suspend its operations in Côte d’Ivoire because of last week’s disturbances, said today that continued uncertainty about staff safety could have a “disastrous effect” on its efforts to aid some of the most vulnerable people, including refugees, in the West African country.

Replacing food supplies stolen from WFP in the town of Guiglo would cost at least $530,000, while losses from theft and damage at its office there have been estimated at $100,000.

Virtually no humanitarian presence remains in Guiglo after violent protests forced most organizations to relocate their staff, but about 7,000 mainly Burkinabé refugees are housed in one camp there and 6,000 Liberian refugees in another.

“For the time being there is no possibility for our staff to return to Guiglo. It is simply too dangerous,” WFP Country Côte d’Ivoire Director Abdou Dieng said. “While we are relieved that our staff have not been physically harmed, we remain extremely concerned for those we have left behind who depend on WFP for their day-to-day survival. Who is going to provide for their needs now?”

Responding to radio broadcasts, looters stripped WFP’s two warehouses in Guiglo of 683 metric tons of food and ransacked the main office, taking whatever they were able to carry, including computers, furniture and electrical equipment.

WFP feeds a total of nearly 700,000 people in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as over 200,000 people displaced by the unrest in recent years in neighbouring countries. Should the situation deteriorate into a full-blown crisis, the agency said it would implement a contingency plan to meet the food needs of another 350,000 people.

Overall, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated about $1.8 million in losses in Côte d’Ivoire.

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