Hospital and health structures in rebel held area of Ivory Coast assisted by MSF

While sporadic fighting continues in Ivory Coast, MSF is covering medical needs in Korhogo in the northern part of Ivory Coast - the rebel held area of the country. For this operation MSF brought in medical supplies and five international staff. MSF provides assistance to the 450-bed Korhogo hospital and to eight health centres in the region, covering a population of about one million people. The biggest health problems are malaria, respiratory diseases and diarrhoea.

MSF can immediately provide assistance to 10,000 people for a period of three months in terms of medical care, shelter, water and food.

“The patients we treat in the health centres and hospital include war wounded civilians and rebels,” siad Pierre Boulet Desbareau of MSF’s emergency pool, who recently returned from Ivory Coast. “Thus far the local population seems to be spared, probably because most of them support the rebels of the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast (MPCI), which holds the northern and central parts of the country. In this region, by and large fighting was limited to rebels and military. As a consequence few civilians felt threatened and only relatively small numbers of them fled to Burkina Faso or Mali. Rebel leaders have made clear that whoever is guilty of looting and abusing the local population will be punished.”

Yet the population is still suffering from the consequences of war. The economy has come to a standstill, banks have closed - which means that the salaries of civil servants are not paid. Schools are also closed and public health facilities collapsed as the supply of drugs and medical equipment from Abidjan to Korhogo dried up.

“When we first arrived in the northern part of Ivory Coast after the war broke out, we found that the medical needs in the health structures were huge. One of the major problems was a lack of doctors and nurses. The former medical staff was appointed and trained by the Ministry of Health, the central government that is. Many of them did not feel safe anymore once the rebels took over power in the region and they returned to Abidjan”, Desbareau said.

MSF flies in medical supplies to Bamako, the capital of Mali, and then transports them by truck to Sikasso, in the south of Mali, where MSF has a supply base. From there they are brought by truck to Korhogo for distribution to the hospital and health centres.

“We also have teams in Mali and Burkina Faso. There, we support health posts at the borders with Ivory Coast and screen the refugees - mainly returnees," Desbareau said. "We have an emergency stock of drugs and medical equipment for immediate use in case of a sudden refugee crisis. Should violence against civilians in the rebel held area of Ivory Coast increase, then new refugee flows are likely.”