See also:
» 27.04.2011 - Abidjan seeks quick economic recovery
» 04.04.2011 - Demands for intl action to stop Côte d'Ivoire "massacre"
» 11.03.2011 - No newspapers on sale in Côte d'Ivoire
» 08.03.2011 - Côte d'Ivoire war displaces half a million
» 04.03.2011 - Power, water cuts: new weapon in Côte d'Ivoire war
» 01.03.2011 - Côte d'Ivoire fighting intensifies
» 24.03.2010 - Abidjan-Lagos highway overhaul financed
» 02.05.2006 - First convoy could mark reopening of north-south trade route

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Côte d'Ivoire
Economy - Development | Politics

Infrastructure crumbling in rebel-held north

afrol News / IRIN, 29 September - Public infrastructure in the rebel-held north of Cote d’Ivoire has become so broken down that the region is at severe risk of epidemics caused by water-borne diseases, a senior United Nations official warned on Friday.

Cote d'Ivoire, once one of the most stable, economically powerful and best developed countries in West Africa, has been split in two since an attempt to topple President Laurent Gbagbo failed in September 2002. Some 10,000 UN and French peacekeepers monitor a ceasefire and a buffer zone between the rebel north and the government south.

The civil war was brief and did not cause extensive physical destruction in the country. However, according to aid agencies that work in the north, most civil servants fled to the south after the country was split.

“There is a perception when you arrive in [Cote d’Ivoire’s main city] Abidjan that everything works compared with other cities in other crises in Africa, but it’s a false perception because the human resources to run the infrastructure in about 60 percent of the country are not there any more,” Steven Lauwerier, programme coordinator for the UN children’s agency (UNICEF) in Cote d’Ivoire said.

“You see the pumps, but the spare parts and people to repair them are not there. You see big water installations but the people to maintain them are not there,” he told IRIN.

Sixty percent of village pumps have broken down and not been repaired in Cote d’Ivoire since 2002, according to UNICEF statistics.

In May and June, Cote d’Ivoire’s second largest city, Bouake, in the rebel-held north was without drinking water for six weeks when a hydraulic pump broke down. Service resumed only after the government financed essential repairs.

As water and sanitation facilities have eroded, waterborne diseases have become a threat, Lauwerier said.

A cholera epidemic swept through Abidjan and Zouan-Hounien in 2006 and there have been growing instances of typhoid fever, according to UNICEF.

“Cote d’Ivoire could turn into a real humanitarian crisis. If the infrastructure breaks down even further, you will have big outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne diseases. So far [disease] has been contained, but there is a real risk that waterborne disease will be at much larger scales next year and the year after,” Lauwerier said.

Officials from the privately owned water company SODECI and the power firm CIE have said they cannot afford to invest in repair and maintenance of their crumbling infrastructures in the north, having suffered millions of dollars in damages since the crisis began.

Ministry of Economic Infrastructure officials have estimated that at least CFA 1.5 billion (US $2.7 million) is needed to guarantee a steady supply of drinking water to Bouake alone.

An estimated 60 percent of the Ivorian population has no access to basic healthcare facilities, according to UNICEF estimates.

Aid agencies have filled some of the gap left by the government. Some 1,160 water pumps were repaired in 2005-2006, latrines have been installed in schools and maternity wards, and the incidence of Guinea worm has been cut, according to UNICEF.

However, in August the UN’s humanitarian coordination office (OCHA) warned that just 30 percent of the US $43.7 million needed for humanitarian projects in Cote d’Ivoire had been donated, with no funding for water and sanitation projects. Cote d’Ivoire has been allocated US $3 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

“Money is certainly needed to keep things at a certain level, but we also have to realise Cote d’Ivoire is not a poor country,” Lauwerier said.

“It’s a question of getting things running again, getting civil servants back from the south to the north. The problem is not a lack of infrastructure, it’s finding people to maintain it so we don’t have an even graver crisis,” he said.

“If we have a peace deal and the situation returns to normal, then everything might get better, more durable, but at this moment we have to prepare for it getting worse,” Lauwerier said.

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