Airbridge Brings Urgent Relief To Côte d’Ivoire

Man carry away sacks of food from a food distribution in western Côte d'Ivoire. Copyright: WFP/Graan Jaff

WFP is ramping up efforts to assist people displaced by violence in Cote d’Ivoire with a series of airlifts that will help feed over 75,000 people around the country. Meanwhile, a logistically challenging operation is underway to feed some 150,000 refugees in remote areas of neighboring Liberia.

DAKAR—WFP has begun major airlifts to provide life-saving food assistance to tens of thousands of internally displaced people in Côte d’Ivoire and Ivorian refugees in neighbouring Liberia.

“We need to open up a humanitarian lifeline to the many Ivorians who are now the victims of alarming shortages of food, water and other basic needs,” said WFP’s Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

WFP is airlifting food and relief supplies this week from Niger and Mali into Man, in western Côte d’Ivoire and into Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, as part of a plan to transport 15,000 metric tons of cereals, vegetable oil and other food assistance.

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Difficult situation

“The deteriorating security situation, difficulties of moving around and the difficulty of food procurement in Côte d’Ivoire have compounded the already arduous logistics conditions which WFP has had to confront. Right now an airlift is the best way forward,” said Sheeran.

Other airlifts of high energy biscuits – ready-to-eat food products designed to keep hunger at bay in the first days of a food crisis – and logistics equipment have been organised from Accra, the capital of nearby Ghana, as well as from Dubai.

WFP is also launching passenger flights for humanitarian workers to towns in the north of Côte d’Ivoire such as Bouaké, where some relief agencies have re-based their operations.  As the lead agency for logistics, WFP manages the humanitarian air service (UNHAS) on behalf of the whole aid community.

Delivering food

Despite the dangerous security situation and a lack of safe routes through the country,  WFP has managed to deliver food to over 27,500 people in the western town of Duekoué. Later this week, more food will be delivered to some 30,000 people in the Danané area.

Meanwhile, in the north, WFP is providing more than 20,000 people with one-month food rations using foodstocks that were already in the country.

WFP has temporarily suspended food distributions in the Côte d’Ivoire capital of Abidjan and relocated its staff. Operations there will resume as soon as the security situation allows for free movement within the city.

In Liberia, where more than 130, 000 Ivorians have taken refuge since December 2010, WFP is mounting a logistically challenging operation -- made worse by the poor road and bridge conditions and the onset of the rainy season, in a remote and inaccessible area of the country.

The UN agency has revised its plans in Liberia upwards to reach 150,000 Ivorian refugees and also 36,000 Liberian host families, with 25,000 metric tons of food.

Shortfall

Though the crisis continues, WFP’s emergency operations still face a shortfall of US $16.7 million in Liberia and US $4.5 million in Côte d’Ivoire. In addition, an essential telecoms operation to strengthen faces a US $2.5 million shortfall.

“There is now an urgent need for donors to come forward and help us to help the victims on both sides of the border,” said WFP’s West Africa regional director Thomas Yanga. “We are afraid that even more support will be necessary as the humanitarian needs are massively increasing by the day.”