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COTE D'IVOIRE-GUINEA: UN expands aid to Ivoirian refugees

DAKAR, 23 October 2009 (IRIN) - UN aid agencies are expanding assistance to Ivoirian refugees in Guinea, for whom aid plans have been thrown off repeatedly by gridlock over elections and general uncertainty in Côte d’Ivoire.

Following an appeal to donors, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Guinea recently doubled its funds – to $US390,000 – for health, education and vocational assistance to the some 3,300 Ivoirians at Kouankan II camp in the southeastern N’zérékoré region. Prior to the new funding UNHCR had said its resources for Kouankan II would not last past mid-2009.

The World Food Programme, which had planned to stop food aid at Kouankan II at the end of 2009, has extended its assistance to December 2010, according to WFP-Guinea. Ivoirians at Kouankan receive monthly rations of cereals, oil, beans and sugar.

Aid programming for Ivoirian refugees in Guinea has been based largely on planned presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire and the ensuing return of most of the refugees, according to Pierre Njouyep, head of UNHCR in N’zérékoré. But elections have been cancelled twice and it is uncertain whether they will take place on the new date of 29 November.

Elections had previously been set for November 2008; in a 2008 update UNHCR estimated that 2,000 Ivoirian refugees would voluntarily return home in the following months. The agency now projects that repatriation of those wishing to return will take place between February and June 2010, said Njouyep. “This depends heavily on the holding of elections on 29 November as planned.”

The additional funding for Kouankan II is to be used for agriculture and income-generating projects, medicines, academic scholarships, rehabilitation of school buildings in the camp, and to expand skills training at a vocational centre.

Ivoirians at Kouankan II have long called for training activities to be maintained at the centre, after NGO Jesuit Refugee Services – which funded and ran it – left in December 2007.

Not ready

B. Toualy Apolinaire, an Ivoirian living at Kouankan II, said many at the camp are far from ready to return to Côte d’Ivoire.

“We did not choose to become refugees,” he told IRIN from N’zérékoré. “But I and many of us saw unbelievable violence and we cannot simply pick up and return, especially given the continued uncertainty.”

Uncertainty has now crept into the refugee camp, Toualy told IRIN. Tensions in Guinea following the 28 September deadly military crackdown have Ivoirians concerned about potential further unrest and how it could affect them.

As yet unaware of plans to continue food aid, he said: “Were food aid to stop at end of 2009 you would find a lot of people in a critical condition here.”


Theme(s): (IRIN) Aid Policy, (IRIN) Children, (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs


Copyright © IRIN 2009
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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