Ivory Coast overlooked as crisis deepens: UN
UN relief agencies warned on Friday that a worsening tragedy in Ivory Coast was being overlooked, as the number of people fleeing post-election violence there approached half a million.
"While international attention has been focused in recent weeks on events in North Africa, the unfolding tragedy in West Africa has been largely overlooked," said Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
"We're nearing the half a million mark of people who have fled violence in Ivory Coast," she told journalists amid warnings that more displaced people were falling out of reach of aid because of the clashes.
The UNHCR was preparing a new round of relief funding as Ivorians continue to flee within the country and to neighbouring Liberia, after the agency's appeal to donors in January only collected $5 million out of $46 million needed.
About 370,000 people have fled their homes in the biggest city Abidjan and in the west of the country, while another 76,956 have sought refuge in Liberia.
The UN's World Food Programme said it would step up food aid for refugees and displaced people, with a $16 million operation that will include assistance for impoverished host families in Liberia who have been helping refugees for four or five months.
The UN human rights chief expressed alarm at the deteriorating violence on Thursday, warning of inter-ethnic clashes after 392 people were killed since mid-December in the standoff between strongman Laurent Gbagbo and his rival, internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara.
© 2011 AFP