10,000 Ivorians seek Church refuge

An estimated 10,000 Ivorians are seeking refuge at a church amid mounting international concern about the humanitarian situation in the West African nation.

The internally displaced persons sought shelter at a church in Duekoue as the town became engulfed in fighting between forces backing Alassane Ouattara, the UN-certified and internationally recognized president, and the forces behind Laurent Gbagbo, who lost the poll but has since refused to step down from the presidency.

Late last week Pope Benedict sent Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson, the Ghanain head of the Vatican’s justice and peace office to Ivory Coast to encourage a peaceful solution to the political chaos.

Benedict also appealed for a process of dialogue to get under way between the two political groups.

Amid the concern, the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in Cote d’Ivoire has deployed troops to a key town in the country’s west to protect the civilians.

“The humanitarian situation is dramatic and every day that passes the suffering of the population increases,” Hamadoun Toure, a UN spokesperson said.

Up to 1 million people have been displaced by the violence that has swept the divided country since the disputed election last November, and top UN officials have warned of a deepening humanitarian crisis in Cote d’Ivoire. Many people have fled to neighbouring Liberia, putting a severe strain on that country’s resources.


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