What has been the psychological impact of the conflict?
Children have been exposed to enormous levels of violence and many have been separated from their families when they had to flee their homes. Save the Children’s teams have spoken to children who have fled violence in the west of the country who have seen their houses burnt down and family members killed. Even today, four months after the end of the fighting and over eight months since the elections, our teams are identifying children who had to leave relatives behind when they fled – and still do not know whether their family members are alive or dead. Some of the older children have lived through the 2002 conflict and have now been exposed to heavy violence in their lives for a second time – while it is clear that this has an immediate and profound impact on children, Save the Children is also concerned about the longer term psychological impact on children.
In the past weeks, our teams have spoken to children who consider the war to still be going on – despite the end of fighting and the resolution of the political crisis. We've also been to villages in the West where children no longer play in the same areas they used to go play in, as they no longer feel safe there. Save the Children is running regular play activities for children in Abidjan and in the West, areas hardest hit by the conflict. Through the spaces set up for these activities, Save the Children is providing an opportunity for children to play together in a safe area, getting a chance to be children again and regain a sense of normalcy to help them recover from the difficulties they've faced in the past months. The spaces also give children the chance to speak to an adult they can trust, trained by Save the Children to help children talk through their problems and ensure children have someone who will listen.
How can someone help Save the Children in the Ivory Coast?
Although the political crisis sparked by last year's elections has now been resolved, immediate needs remain for hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are still displaced from their homes even today. Save the Children is running an emergency response in the Ivory Coast to make sure that children are able to access enough nutritious food to stay healthy and strong; medical care and treatment; and clean drinking water. We're also working closely with other agencies and the government so that children are well-protected against violence, abuse and exploitation, also making sure that children can get back into school. As families begin to return home, we are looking at transitioning some of our programmes into longer-term work to ensure that even once the immediate crisis has passed, children and their families are not forgotten, and continue to receive the assistance they need to build their lives back.