UPDATE: threat of civil war in Cote d’Ivoire.

In the past few weeks, we’ve been keeping a close eye on Cote d’Ivoire, a country where we’ve funded clean water projects since 2008. Tensions mounted after the nation’s runoff elections in November, when both presidential candidates — Alassane Ouattara and the incumbant, Laurent Gbagbo — claimed a win. The UN has recognized Mr. Ouattara as the victor, but Mr. Gbagbo refuses to step down.

Less than a month ago, violence erupted between the groups supporting each candidate. Our partner in Cote d’Ivoire, the International Rescue Committee (the IRC), told us on Christmas Eve that at least 11,000 people had crossed into neighboring Liberia; now, that number is upwards of 23,000 (about 500 per day).

The international community has responded with an increase in UN troops, financial sanctions and emergency aid, including airlifts of food to refugees.

The resulting tensions affect our work in two areas, both Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia:

Cote d’Ivoire.

The IRC has scaled back its programs in the country for the time being. They’re providing medical services to Ivorians displaced to Liberia, about two-thirds of which are women and children. Read more about what the IRC is doing for refugees here >

cote

A little history: Cote d’Ivoire was on track at the turn of the century to become one of the most developed African nations, until civil war broke out in 2002. More than 3,000 people were killed and another 750,000 displaced as a result. Much of the country’s infrastructure fell to disrepair and it has struggled to regain access to health care, water and other services ever since.

Now, the potential for violence and another all-out civil war in Cote d’Ivoire is high. We’re not sure yet how this will affect our work in the country. The IRC is creating a strategy to resume construction of new charity: water projects in the former “zone of confidence“, a program which was about half-finished before this conflict took hold. We’ll keep you posted on the situation. For immediate updates, you can follow the IRC on Twitter: @theIRC.

liberia

Liberia.

Our local partners in Nimba County report thousands of refugees coming across the border to find safety and stability in Liberia.

“We are scrambling to make sure they have enough food and safe drinking water in all the villages along the border,” Dave Waines, director of our local partner EQUIP Liberia, wrote to our staff. “Thanks so much, for all the support from charity: water means that we are better prepared.”

Nimba County was heavily affected by the Ivorian civil war; it’s now a familiar place for thousands of Ivorian refugees. But the influx has strained the capacity of already scarce health services and water sources. And political ties may be reforming here as conflict spills over. The Economist reports rebel groups in Liberia are reorganizing for the first time since peace was instilled here in 2003. Among them, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), which was backed by Charles Taylor to overthrow the Ivorian government back in 2002.

“Fighters have their own unpredictable agendas and retribution in Liberia is a danger,” Pewee Flomoku, an analyst in Monrovia, Liberia, told the Economist.

We’ll keep you posted. Follow us here on the blog to get updates on the situation in West Africa and how it affects our work.

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