DAKAR, 25 June 2007 (IRIN) - The EU will stop its emergency humanitarian aid to Cote d'Ivoire at the end of June, marking a shift in policy to focus more on assisting reconstruction as the country endeavours to emerge from five years of civil unrest.
"ECHO [the EU's emergency relief organisation] will no longer intervene in Cote d'Ivoire unless a major setback were to spark a need for emergency aid," Samy Cecchin, a representative of ECHO's West Africa regional office, told IRIN on 22 June.
"In Cote d'Ivoire there are humanitarian needs, yes, but not a humanitarian crisis."
But he said the country still needs international assistance. "When emergency humanitarian actors leave a country it's not a catastrophe; it's a positive thing."
"What's important now is that donors come on board to support development projects," he said.
The head of the EU delegation in Cote d'Ivoire, Michel Arrion, told reporters in the commercial capital Abidjan on 22 June that EU non-emergency assistance will continue. "We will continue [our] support for post-crisis reconstruction and development."
The deputy head of the UN in Cote d'Ivoire also said the focus now is on rebuilding. "Today Cote d'Ivoire is moving out of crisis and into economic revival," George Charpentier, UN deputy special representative and humanitarian coordinator told reporters on 21 June in Abidjan.
As state institutions begin to resume in rebel-held areas some non-governmental organisations funded by donors such as ECHO are also wrapping up their emergency assistance. In April Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) handed over a hospital to government health workers in the rebel stronghold of Bouake. MSF also plans to hand over a hospital in the town of Man by the end of this month.
However MSF continues to provide health care in some areas of the country, including in the western town of Bangolo and surrounding villages where the buffer zone between government and rebel held areas has only recently been dismantled. With a power vacuum in the area there has been a crime spree and many civilians have been injured.
The UN and NGOs in Cote d'Ivoire say that in the west, a potential humanitarian problem remains with displaced people there trying to return home. "We recognise that there is still a significant humanitarian task in the west, which perhaps suffered more than any other region," Charpentier said.
Cecchin said there are other humanitarian problems elsewhere in Cote d'Ivoire but they are being met by other donors. "There is no malnutrition in Cote d'Ivoire besides in some pockets in the north and these cases are not linked to the country's crisis but rather to general problems across the Sahel."
ECHO has spent 25 million euros in Cote d'Ivoire since 2002, when the unrest started. The money has mostly gone to help protect refugees, displaced persons and child soldiers as well as provide water, sanitation, food and agricultural assistance to vulnerable civilians.
Cecchin said one factor in ECHO's decision to stop emergency aid is that infrastructures and human capacity largely remained intact in Cote d'Ivoire throughout the conflict, adding that the country's political crisis never resulted in a full-blown humanitarian crisis. "Cote d'Ivoire's crisis was neither long nor devastating," he said.