U.N.: Effects of Ivory Coast crisis linger

May 3, 2011 at 3:30 PM
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UNITED NATIONS, May 3 (UPI) -- The humanitarian situation in Ivory Coast remains alarming for tens of thousands of civilians despite improved security, a U.N. refugee agency warned.

More than three weeks after the end of the post-electoral crisis, living conditions are "extremely precarious" as people displaced by violence have gone for weeks without adequate food, a release from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday.

"As our teams reach more displaced people we are seeing substantial needs," Adrian Edwards, a UNHCR representative, said.

The country's political crisis ended April 11 when former President Laurent Gbagbo finally surrendered, ending a months-long political standoff caused by his refusal to step down after he lost the U.N.-certified presidential runoff last November to Alassane Ouattara.

The UNHCR said that while it welcomes the improved security throughout the country, it was concerned by the large number of armed checkpoints.

"We urge the new Ivorian government to reduce these checkpoints, as they intimidate people wanting to return to places of origin," Edwards said. "We also call on the government to reassure the civilian population by speeding up efforts to re-establishing the presence of local authorities."

An estimated 1 million Ivorians were displaced by the violence during the recent crisis, the UNHCR said.

"Most people tell us they want to return to their places of origin as soon as possible," Edwards said. "However, in many cases homes and villages have been either partially or totally destroyed, and people are traumatized."

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