WFP Announces Plan To Boost Food Aid, U.N. Calls For International Aid Amid Escalating Crisis In Cote d’Ivoire

Amid growing concerns over the increasing number of people fleeing from escalating violence in Cote d’Ivoire, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) on Friday announced plans to boost food aid to tens of thousands of displaced people and the families hosting them in other countries, AlertNet reports (Fominyen, 3/12).

“WFP plans to assist 125,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) over a six-month period, with special assistance going to malnourished children under the age of five, pregnant women, nursing mothers and people living with HIV/AIDS. The operation is expected to cost nearly $16 million,” U.N. News Centre writes. The organization also plans on providing 25,000 tons of food aid (3/11).

U.N. officials are increasingly concerned that the international community has thus far overlooked the situation in Cote d’Ivoire, according to AlertNet. “While international attention has been focused in recent weeks on events in North Africa, the unfolding tragedy in West Africa has gone largely overlooked,” a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugee [UNHCR] spokesperson told reporters in Geneva on Friday, the news service reports (3/12).

“On 14 January UNHCR appealed for US$46 million in funding, mainly to help deal with the outflow of refugees into neighbouring Liberia. So far we have received only US$5 million of this sum, and promises of a further US$13 million,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said, according to a UNHCR summary. “With the growing displacement, UNHCR is considering a new and increased funding appeal next week, and we hope donors will respond more positively,” Fleming added (3/11).

Foreign Policy writes, “Relief workers seem overwhelmed by the burgeoning crisis. The U.N. refugee agency originally requested funds for the operation based on a maximum refugee population of 50,000 — only half of the number present in Liberia’s border region now” (Dickinson, 3/11).

According to a report (.pdf) released by a U.N. team in Cote d’Ivoire, violence in the region is creating barriers to food and health care, IRIN reports. “Many medical facilities in the north and west have shut down” and “the state pharmacy system is at risk of collapse,” the report says. “In the west, where thousands of people are displaced, current estimates show that for many families food reserves from the November-January harvest will last about two or three months, compared to the usual five to seven.” The violence also has disrupted HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services and created unsanitary conditions on the ground, according to the report (3/11).

Former Washington Lawmakers Drop Contracts Working For Cote d’Ivoire

“Former Reps. Mike Espy (D-Miss.) and Bob McEwen (R-Ohio) … have dropped their contracts working for interests in the African nation … as the country’s turmoil continues to be a source of controversy for Washington lobbyists,” The Hill reports.

“Espy’s agricultural consulting firm AE Agritrade had signed a three-month contract worth at least $750,000 with the Cocoa and the Coffee Board of the Ivory Coast,” according to the news service. “The former congressman said he only worked on the contract for a little more than a month before suspending it in early February as the international community, including the Obama administration, criticized [Laurent] Gbabgo repeatedly for not leaving the presidency,” The Hill writes.

“McEwen, the other former lawmaker, signed a three-month, $75,000 contract with the embassy for the Ivory Coast, Justice Department records show… Having worked on the contract in December and January, McEwen said the agreement has since ended, but he would not explain why or divulge more details about his lobbying work for the embassy” (Bogardus, 3/12).

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