Earlier this year I wrote several stories about the conflict in the Ivory Coast. A disputed presidential election led to violence which displaced hundreds of thousands of people in the West African nation. While the post-election violence has subsided, the scars remain. Hunger is still on the attack.
Annie Bodmer-Roy of Save the Children says, “The international perception is that because levels of violence have died down and the country has a president, the crisis is now resolved. This is not the case. Our teams are on the ground, speaking to children and their families and witnessing the horrible conditions that these people are still living in – we know that the humanitarian crisis is far from over.”
10-month old Sara has been found to be malnourished, and will receive treatment to make her strong and healthy again. Even before the conflict, already one in three children under 5 years old in Côte d’Ivoire was suffering from chronic malnutrition (Photo: Annie Bodmer-Roy/Save the Children)
As we honor World Humanitarian Day, this is an important concept to note, not just for the Ivory Coast but for any conflict-affected area. Hunger and sickness are the companions of warfare. These scourges last much longer than the actual fighting itself. The Ivory Coast is one of these examples.
Think of your own community and how daily life plays itself out. And then imagine the unthinkable: a war striking. Basic things that you see every day, like food deliveries and shopping at stores, would cease. Housing would be destroyed, leaving many trying to find basic shelter. Imagine large-scale displacement, on foot mostly, as fuel deliveries have stopped. Farms that produce food may be damaged. Health clinics may be destroyed or unable to get deliveries because transportation systems are not functioning. Medical care would decline.
Once a war ends, repairs to basic life must begin. It’s bad enough for any community to go through such a rebuilding process, but imagine areas that were already impoverished. Their resiliency would be far less. The same reconstruction pains often take place with recovery from natural disasters. In East Africa, for instance, recovery from the massive drought there will take years.
The key is maintaining focus on these areas once the headline-grabbing conflict ends. For example, in Yemen very little coverage is given to the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons from the Sa’ada War in the northern part of the country. The fighting there too has subsided, but great suffering remains. In Southern Sudan, many are still struggling to recover from conflict with the North. Fighting earlier this year displaced hundreds of thousands of people. But you hear little of their plight in the headlines.
World Humanitarian Day honors the dedication of those helping in the many crisis points around the globe. It’s also a time to remember that humanitarian aid is still needed even long after the guns fall silent in a war zone. Just because news coverage wanes in an area does not mean the suffering does as well. It’s important to support humanitarian efforts in conflict or disaster zones to finish the job of reconstruction.
Coming soon: an interview with Annie Bodmer-Roy as she gives the latest on the situation in the Ivory Coast. She will discuss how Save the Children is helping communities fight hunger and overcome the effects of conflict. You can donate to Save the Children’s relief mission in the Ivory Coast here.
Sara receives a supply of plumpy’nut: Genevieve, 34, heads home from the local health clinic with her son Komène and her daughter Sara, 10 months, asleep wrapped up against her mother’s back in the town of Guezon, western Ivory Coast. Genevieve has just received a bag full of plumpy’nut, a peanut paste packed with vitamins and minerals, designed to help babies like Sara recover from malnutrition. (photo: Annie Bodmer-Roy/Save the Children)
Plumpy’nut is a special peanut paste used to treat severe child malnutrition in small children. Countries suffering from conflict, natural disasters, or poverty need adequate supplies of plumpy’nut to combat child malnutrition. The plumpy’nut requires no cooking and can be easily stored and distributed. Children who suffer malnutrition in the first 1,000 days will have lasting physical and mental damage. (Photo: Annie Bodmer-Roy/Save the Children)