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UN shocked at extent of destruction, Côte d’Ivoire

UN official shocked at extent of anti-humanitarian destruction in western Côte d’Ivoire

United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said today he was profoundly shocked at the extent of the destruction that occurred at UN and other humanitarian offices during violent protests last month in the western town of Guiglo, Côte d’Ivoire, and was concerned that some assistance programmes for 3.5 million people had to be suspended.

“I am profoundly shocked at the level of destruction I have seen here today. I am even more deeply concerned about those here who have been deprived of the humanitarian aid they so urgently need due to the disruption of aid work,” Mr. Egeland, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said.

On a visit to Côte d’Ivoire to re-affirm the principles of humanitarian work, Mr. Egeland said he had received assurances from the government that the violence would not be repeated.

He was speaking after meeting local authorities and viewing the offices of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the non-UN International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Other agencies hit by the Young Patriots, a group which saw recommendations from the UN-authorized International Working Group as likely to reduce the power of President Laurent Gbagbo, included the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), OCHA said.

“This senseless destruction comes at a time when the aid community in Côte d’Ivoire is striving to help some 3.5 million people, including up to 600,000 displaced Ivorians,” Mr. Egeland said.

The programmes suspended included emergency school feeding for 35,000 children, agricultural and livestock support programmes for more than 40,000 people, as well as water and sanitation projects and mobile health clinics, OCHA said.

Mr. Egeland was on his way to Bouaké to meet with the head of the Forces Nouvelles armed opposition, Guillaume Soro.

He was also scheduled to hold talks later with Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, Mr. Gbagbo, the International Working Group and Gen. Elrick Irastorza of the UN-authorized Licorne French forces, which share with the UN peacekeeping mission, ONUCI, guard duties in the zone between the northern area controlled by anti-Government forces and the southern area ruled by the Government.

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