Ivoirians in West Make Cautious Return Home
Published on 4 July 2011

Burned out houses in Carrefour, Duékoué, in Western Côte d'Ivoire, mark the scene of massacres that occured during the country's recent political and humanitarian crises.

As Cote d'Ivore slowly recovers from its recent political and humanitarian crisis, WFP continues to provide assistance to Ivoirians who were forced to flee their homes. WFP's life-saving food rations have been vital for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs).

In the village of Pohan in the west of Côte d’Ivoire, a small group of people are waiting for their second distribution of WFP food assistance.  The village still has an eerie, abandoned feel; many homes are burnt and all have been looted.

The 104 households registered by WFP in Pohan represent about only half of the original population. The entire village fled in fear on March 21 when it was engulfed by the crisis. 

Jean Zoho, 61 ran to the forest with seven members of his family. He has just returned by himself to see if it is safe for his family to return and to start rebuilding his burnt-out house.

‘It was very hard in the forest – we slept on banana leaves, when it rained we got wet. We ate what we could find: roots, manioc and leaves.  But there were a lot of people from the village there, we felt safer in the forest. I came back alone; my family is still too frightened.’

Jean ZohoJean Zoho is waiting for his WFP monthly ration which includes rice, beans, corn soya blend and oil.  

‘I will bring this food to my family.  I am happy I can again feed my family, we have been so hungry.’

There are still 320,000 displaced Ivoirians and another 200,000 in neighbouring countries, mainly in Liberia.

Claude Jidibar, WFP’s deputy regional director, has just visited displaced Ivoirians on both sides of the border with Liberia and says there is a multitude of factors people have to consider before deciding to return home.

‘It is impossible to speak about people as a group. Everyone has their own individual reasons for deciding when to return home.  Certainly there is a great deal of fear, but there are other factors too. Transport is very difficult here, and it has been made worse by the rainy season. Some people I spoke with in Liberia had planted rice, so they will not return before they have harvested their crops. Our job is to help them wherever they are.’

Danielle Ouompehe, 21, who is waiting patiently for her food assistance, had her own reasons for returning. She had fled across the border to Liberia with her parents but her three year-old daughter, Noura, had remained in Côte d’Ivoire with her father.

‘I had to come back and find my daughter,’ she says cradling a sleepy Noura.

In Liberia, she had stayed with a family which itself had sought safety in Côte d’Ivoire during the 14-year civil war in Liberia. There are close ties in this border area, many Ivoirians had opened their doors to Liberians a decade ago, and now the Liberians are returning the favour.

WFP is currently providing general food rations for IDPs in the West and in the Centre-North , as well as blanket supplementary feeding for children at sites, supplementary feeding for pregnant and nursing women and people living with HIV in the West.

WFP has recently reached 14, 000 people in Abidjan and is planning to reach more vulnerable people in the city in the coming weeks.

WFP Offices
About the author

Judith Melby

Public Information Officer

Judith Melby worked as Public Information Officer for the Regional Bureau of West Africa.