Action Against Hunger Ramps Up Emergency Response for Thousands Fleeing Unrest in Ivory Coast

Families fleeing violence face life-threatening malnutrition & cholera outbreak
Photo credit: © ACF-France

UPDATE: April 25, 2011—Action Against Hunger is distributing 35 tons of emergency food assistance to help the estimated 70,000 people in Abidjan—Ivory Coast's largest city—made vulnerable by food shortages and spikes in the cost of basic foodstuffs. Despite early signs of economic renewal, food scarcity and public health risks continue to threaten thousands of residents' lives.

"After an economic collapse like this, it will take weeks to return to normalcy," says François Danel, Action Against Hunger's General Director in France, referring to the disruption of commercial life in Abidjan, which is home to nearly six million residents. "Not only is there not enough food, but prices have skyrocketed. The needs, especially for displaced populations, are immense," explains Danel.

Action Against Hunger's 35-ton shipment, consisting mainly of therapeutic nutritional foods, arrived on Saturday, April 16th to help the nearly one million displaced residents still vulnerable to malnutrition.

Action Against Hunger and the Ivorian Red Cross are also resuming joint efforts to distribute 34,000 water-treatment kits to halt the outbreak of cholera. Sanitary conditions have deteriorated for many residents who were cut off from electricity and clean water during the conflict, accelerating the spread of the water-borne disease.

UPDATE: April 11, 2011—Clashes hinder humanitarian aid as cholera and food scarcity deepen the crisis in Abidjan.

Ongoing clashes have paralyzed Abidjan—Ivory Coast’s largest city and economic capital—causing widespread food scarcity, a growing cholera epidemic, and hindering the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Nearly a million residents have fled the city, and fears of renewed attacks have confined those remaining to their homes, cutting them off from basic services like electricity, food, and water.

An outbreak of cholera has spread unabated for the past several weeks, made worse by an increase in fighting in Abidjan. Security concerns have undermined treatment and containment efforts, most recently disrupting a joint effort by Action Against Hunger and the Ivorian Red Cross to distribute 34,000 water-treatment kits. “Because safe water supplies have been disrupted, people have been forced to drink from unsafe sources, which has greatly increased the risk and spread of cholera,” says Cecile Renaudin, an Action Against Hunger water & sanitation specialist. “The unrest has made it difficult for local health centers to function, and without treatment, up to fifty percent of those infected with cholera could die,” warns Renaudin.

Residents of Abidjan and surrounding areas are also faced with widespread food scarcity, as political unrest continues to disrupt the delivery of essential goods. Action Against Hunger is currently exploring ways to transport and distribute food rations to help residents in the most vulnerable neighborhoods cope with protracted food shortages.

UPDATE: March 31, 2011— Action Against Hunger | ACF International is expanding its on-the-ground response in three key regions to address the Ivory Coast’s worsening humanitarian crisis:

Duekoue, Man and Danane

In western Ivory Coast, displaced populations continue to overwhelm health facilities that lack the personnel and supplies to deal with the sudden influx. Action Against Hunger is training health workers in 20 facilities to treat an estimated 4,500 moderately to severely malnourished children across the region. To protect communities from outbreaks of disease, Action Against Hunger has begun constructing latrines and distributing water filters and hygiene supplies, targeting both the displaced and households offering shelter to those who have fled their homes.

Along the Liberian Border

Since November, some 90,000 people have fled the Ivory Coast for Liberia. In crowded camps along the border, ACF is now distributing some 120,000 liters of water each day while constructing latrines and drainage systems to improve sanitation and stave off outbreaks of water-borne diseases. Action Against Hunger has treated 120 children for severe acute malnutrition, while providing 500 moderately malnourished children with needed therapeutic nutritional foods.


Action Against Hunger is working to suppress outbreaks of cholera in the Ivory Coast capital of Abidjan, where armed conflict has destroyed water infrastructure, interrupted waste management services, and prompted an international embargo resulting in shortages of medicines. In partnership with the Ivorian Red Cross, Action Against Hunger has begun training teams of health workers to disinfect homes and distribute hygiene kits, but the ongoing conflict has left sections of the city off limits, increasing concerns of a broader cholera epidemic.

Action Against Hunger’s emergency programs are supported by UNICEF, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the European Commission’s Office of Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection (ECHO).

YAMOUSSOUKRO, IVORY COAST—The international humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger | ACF International has ramped up its emergency assistance in western Ivory Coast as conditions worsen for thousands of families fleeing the unrest spurred by November’s contested election. Those who fled now face deteriorating sanitary conditions and increasing rates of malnutrition, according to the organization’s on-the-ground surveys. In response, Action Against Hunger has expanded its emergency efforts in the most affected areas—Duékoué, Danane, and Man—while providing emergency water and sanitation services for refugees in makeshift camps along on both sides of the Liberia-Ivory Coast border.

The growing unrest poses a significant threat to food security in the region, as small farmers “have been unable to harvest their crops because of insecurity and the massive influx of displaced people to the region,” according to Yann Dutertre, Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Ivory Coast. “Others have lost food stocks from looting or have already consumed the little food they had,” continued Dutertre, noting that short supplies of staple crops have sent prices soaring, depriving many households of access to basic foods.

Public health services have also been largely disrupted across the region, putting many young children at increased risk of malnutrition. Action Against Hunger expects to treat some 4,500 severely malnourished children in its therapeutic nutrition programs, and the agency is training an additional 50 health workers in the management of severe acute malnutrition. The organization is also carrying out educational campaigns targeting the specialized needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as distributing hygiene kits and training on best sanitary practices to prevent the spread of disease among the displaced.