about the author
West Africa Regional Public Information Officer
Judith is a journalist with about 20 years of experience. She has worked with WFP in Dakar, Addis Abeba, Khartoum, Abidjan and Kinshasa.
Four months after civil war broke out in the Ivory Coast, many displaced families remain far from home, either unable to return to their villages or too worried to do so. Some of them - including many traumatised women and children - are living in encampments outside Abidjan, where they are being supported by WFP food assistance.
ABIDJAN - The grounds of the Harris Mission Church in Bingerville on the outskirts of Abidjan are dotted with white tents – it is the temporary home for some 900 people who sought refuge this spring. Most come from other areas of the city where the fighting was most intense.
Most of the women and children here are still traumatized – they sleep poorly, fearful of intruders, and are frightened when there is an unexpected noise.
Today WFP is distributing monthly rations: each person will receive 12 kgs of rice and 1.5 kgs of corn soya blend. Several other agencies also work here providing shelter and medical care.
Cécile Djiekpe, 50, had the misfortune to be at the scene of some of the worst fighting in two towns. She makes traditional soap from coconut milk in her home in Abidjan but was in Duékoué, in the north, for a funeral when fighting broke out there. Duékoué was the scene of some of the most horrific atrocities during the crisis.
"I stayed at the Catholic Mission and then I walked back home to Abidjan with my children," she says pointing to her still swollen feet. "It took us two days."
At home in her neighbourhood of Abobo, things did not get better. There was heavy fighting, houses were looted and burnt, but Cécile found safety in the mission grounds.
"I sent my children to stay with relatives where it is quiet. I don’t want them here, they are so traumatized."
Forced to flee
Léontine Su, 43, lives close to her friend Cécile in Abobo. She was also forced to flee with her three children and is still reliving the experience.
"When the shooting started we lay on the floor, when it stopped we ran to another neighbourhood. We would run and then when there was shooting we would hide, that’s what we did, run and hide, run and hide. There were bodies in the road and they were looting and burning the houses."
They finally arrived in one church which was already full of displaced people so they were directed to the Harris Mission.
Léontine has returned home once but all that remains of her house is a bed frame without the mattress. She is too afraid to go back to live there and is not sure what she will do in the future.
"I thank God for the food WFP gives me. Where would we be without it?"
(Embedded Photo: Hairdressing while waiting for food assistance. Copyright: WFP/Judith Melby)
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