Warning of Ivory Coast humanitarian crisis

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Warning of Ivory Coast humanitarian crisis

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While all eyes are focused on events in north Africa, a major crisis is unfolding in the west of the continent, virtually unnoticed by the rest of the world.

It is feared the political crisis in Ivory Coast after disputed elections in November could be turning into a humanitarian catastrophe.

Tens of thousands have been forced to flee violent clashes between the military, which remains loyal to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, and the forces of Alassane Ouattara, recognised by the world as the country’s new leader.

With the violence unfolding mainly in the west of the country, most are fleeing to neighbouring Liberia.

An estimated 40,000 refugees have already crossed the border and, according to humanitarian groups, this figure could rise to 100,000 by April.

With the rainy season on its way, there will be an urgent need for medicine, water, food and shelter.

Ivorians are no strangers to violence and unrest. It had been hoped November’s presidential election would finally reunite the country, already split by civil war eight years ago.

Back then, hundreds were killed and tens of thousands of people were displaced in the violence that shook the country.

It is feared the ongoing unrest could have dire consequences on the economy in the world’s top cocoa exporter.

Prices have sky-rocketed amid concerns about future supplies from the region; they are now at a 32-year peak.

The industry’s activity has become increasingly limited following an export ban imposed by Ouattara and EU sanctions against Gbagbo.

As efforts by both the African Union and the UN to solve the crisis continue in vain, fears are growing that Ivory Coast could be heading for civil war once again, while the world looks the other way.