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UN, Red Cross urge access to wounded in Abidjan

The United Nations and international Red Cross called for urgent access to conflict victims in Ivory Coast’s embattled city of Abidjan on Wednesday, amid warnings that hospitals in the country were overwhelmed.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned in a statement that the humanitarian situation was worsening with ongoing fighting and looting, while tens of thousands of people were still fleeing in the west.

In Abidjan, however, aid workers were unable to reach the wounded because of insecurity while people were stuck in their homes with food and water running short.

“We again call on all weapon bearers to respect and protect civilians, and to facilitate humanitarian work,” said Dominique Liengme, head of the ICRC in Ivory Coast.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) described the situation in Abidjan as extremely urgent as aid workers came under fire.

“In Abidjan the situation is extremely worrying,” OCHA spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told AFP after speaking to United Nations staff in the city.

“Aid workers and especially the Red Cross staff who are fetching the wounded must be able to do so without coming under fire, it’s extremely serious, hospitals are overwhelmed, there is a shortage of medicine,” she added.

“There are armed rebel groups — who don’t know on which side they are — who are looting not only private houses but also some stocks of humanitarian agencies, that’s unacceptable. We really need protection to carry out our work.”

Liengme said that in the west of the country, “hospitals are more and more overwhelmed and hospital staff sometimes have to perform their duties without running water or electricity.”

The ICRC flew 12 tonnes of medical supplies into the northern town of Man on Wednesday.

“Tens of thousands of men, women and children who continue to flee the fighting have taken refuge in makeshift reception centres in public buildings,” but lacked food and drinking water, the agency said.

OCHA staff in Abidjan reported that about 2,000 Malian migrants including pregnant women and children were stuck in their country’s embassy alongside a body that could not be buried.