MSF in Ivory Coast works amidst high insecurity to supply and support medical facilities

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© Didier Assal / MSF

Following the post-election crisis in Ivory Coast, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) restarted activities in December 2010. MSF teams are providing people with medical assistance and supporting hospitals in several locations in Ivory Coast as well as on the other side of the border in neighbouring Liberia.

In Abidjan, the humanitarian situation faced by people trapped by the ongoing violence is a very worrying. Movements in Abidjan continue to be either severely restricted or impossible due to insecurity, which makes it almost impossible for patients to reach hospitals and for medical staff to move and access patients.

There is a great concern that many wounded people and patients suffering from medical emergencies and chronicle disease cannot access to proper care.

An MSF team is working in collaboration with health authorities around the clock in Abobo Sud hospital, the only hospital still functioning in the northern part of the city. On average, 25 to 30 wounded people are treated there every day. As ambulances do not function for the moment in Abidjan, these patients are either living nearby and able to reach the hospital on their own, or are being brought by cars or even wheelbarrows.

On April 3, MSF was able to provide medical supplies to treat 50 wounded people, this through the Ivorian Red Cross to the general hospital of Treichville, in the southern part of Abidjan. On April 6, MSF donated more medical supplies to the same hospital. But many other hospitals in the city have not been supplied for days, and when security allows it, MSF is prepared to organize rapid donations and provide medical care where the needs are most acute.

On April 7, it was possible to bring anesthetics and IV drips to Abobo hospital. But one of the other priorities for MSF is bring in a fresh team to the Abobo Sud hospital and fully resupply this hospital with medical material from MSF pharmacies located in southern Abidjan and in Bouaké.

The dangerous conditions in Abidjan have also put on the road an estimated one million people, who are fleeing towards the north of the city or to their villages further away.

MSF teams have been providing primary and secondary healthcare in many locations in the western region of the country, where people have been greatly affected by the violence.

Between March 28 and 31, as fighting between pro-Outtara forces and armies loyal to Gbagbo happened in places including Guiglo, Doala, Duékoué and Bloléquin, many wounded people were treated by an MSF surgical team in Bangolo and by another medical team in Duékoué. Since the fighting between armed groups stopped, newly wounded have been cared for also, which suggests the situation remains confused and intercommunal violence continues to be a major high concerns.

Between March 28 and April 5, 285 wounded people were cared for in the Duékoué health facility and 150 wounded in need of surgery were treated in Bangolo. MSF has also supported hospitals in Danané and Man with medical supplies.

As well, primary health consultations are being organized inside a Catholic mission in Duékoué, a town where some neighborhoods have been looted. More than 20,000 displaced people have gathered in the Catholic mission facilities. Some of these people have been there since January and are too scared to go outside and need food and water.

MSF teams are also providing primary healthcare in Cocoma health centre in Duékoué, and have rehabilitated the operating room of the Duékoué hospital after it was looted in December.

In Guiglo where 15,000 to 20,000 internally displaced persons are living with host families, MSF is providing primary healthcare in a health centre in Nicla district, and in a camp nearby Eglise Nazareth where 2,000 displaced people have gathered.

Mobile clinics are also organized twice a week in Bangolo, Bin-Houyé, Gleupleu and Zouan-Hounien, where between 50 and 100 patients received primary healthcare each clinic.

On the Liberian side of the border, tens of thousands of Ivorians have sought refuge in Nimba county. The majority of these people are scattered in villages throughout the county, staying with host families. This massive influx of people is putting pressure on local communities and on their ability to cope with their already fragile access to basic services such as water or food.

The UN has set up a refugee camp in Nimba county for 15,000 people. So far, about 2,000 people have been staying in the camp. Some refugees have started to go back to their home village in recent weeks, and a new wave of refugees has arrived in Grand Gedeh County, just south of Nimba. MSF team are organizing mobile clinics for local communities and refuges in many locations in both counties, with an average of 80 patients per day and per location. Malaria, diarrhea, respiratory or skin infections are the main health issues being treated.

Currently, MSF has 45 international staff working together with 150 Ivorian staff in Ivory Coast. In Liberia, there are 10 international staff working with 30 Liberian staff.