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COTE D'IVOIRE: Civil war means no school, no shots for millions of children

Photo: IRIN
dakar, 9 December 2004 (PlusNews) - For millions of children in Cote d’Ivoire, the ongoing civil war means no school, no vaccinations, and a fresh threat of polio, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in its annual report on Thursday.

With the West Africa country split into a rebel-held north and a government-run south, some 700,000 children are being denied the right to an education, the State of the World’s Children Report 2005 said.

Exams scheduled for mid-November were cancelled when fighting flared up again on November 4 as government troops shattered an 18-month ceasefire and launched bombed rebel strongholds, the UNICEF report said. Though the offensive stopped after two days, teachers fled the north in fear of more conflict.

“Eighty percent of the 700,000 deprived of education are in the north where schools are shut for lack of teachers and basic facilities, while in the south schools are hugely overcrowded, often with more than 60 to a class,” UNICEF official Kale Kouame told PlusNews by telephone from Cote d'Ivoire's main city, Abidjan.

However, aid agencies had managed to reopen schools in Bouake, the rebel capital, as well as in northwest Odienne, Kouame said.

The issue of schooling caused friction between the Abidjan authorities and aid agencies earlier this year when the agencies made attempts to resurrect the education system in rebel territory. The government felt the lack of social services would help undermine rebel support.

“There was some incomprehension but the education ministry finally came round to understanding our position, that we simply wanted to help the children,” Koume said.

After more than two years of partition, health is in tatters in the north, with few doctors and nurses and virtually no routine vaccinations, UNICEF said.

Some 15 cases of polio had been reported this year but the recent flare-up of the conflict has forced the health ministry to postpone two rounds of a national polio immunization campaign for 5.1 million children planned for November and December.

A nationwide measles vaccination campaign for 8.8 million children due in December was also put off.

UNICEF warned that in the climate of poverty spawned by the conflict, juvenile prostitution was mounting, threatening to increase HIV-AIDS in Cote d’Ivoire, which already has one of the highest rates in West Africa, at around seven percent.

UNICEF said it was appealing for US$ 17.5 million to cover humanitarian needs in the country for 2005.

Theme (s): Children,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Other OCHA Sites
United Nations - OCHA
DFID - UK Department for International Development
Irish Aid
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation - SDC