DAKAR (AlertNet) - At least 80 people in Ivory Coast’s main city of Abidjan have been treated from gunshot wounds in the last 48 hours by doctors working for the international medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontiere (MSF), as fighting spread across the commercial hub, an MSF official said on Friday.
“There are women and children among the wounded but the majority are young men ,though we cannot tell whether they are combatants or civilians,” Mego Terzian, MSF emergency desk manager, told AlertNet from Paris.
Forces loyal to Ivory Coast’s incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo have been fending off troops seeking to install rival presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara, who is recognised internationally as the winner of a November poll which was supposed to end years of turmoil but has instead set off a spate of fresh unrest in the West African country.
Terzian said the situation in Abidjan was chaotic, making it impossible for hospitals to restock supplies of medication and to dispatch ambulances to pick up wounded people in areas of the city where there had been heavy fighting.
“If the fighting continues the hospitals will be in big and serious difficulties, and will not be able to cope with the number of wounded that may arrive in their facilities,” Terzian said.
He urged those involved in the fighting not to attack ambulances, hospitals and medical personnel. MSF has been working with health authorities in Abidjan since early March, treating 450 people, among them 314 victims of violence. The teams are working at the Abobo Sud Hospital, the only health facility still functioning in the city's northern neighbourhoods, the aid group said.
HIV DRUGS RUNNING OUT
Relief groups have also warned that fighting could mean a disruption in the supply of anti-retroviral treatment for people living with HIV. Ivory Coast has an estimated 480,000 people living with HIV and is one of the countries worst affected by the AIDS epidemic in West Africa.
“We are very worried that although some HIV treatment is available, supplies will run out in the next two to three weeks if the current import embargo on goods is not lifted,” said Sosthene Dougrou, executive director of Alliance Cote d’Ivoire, a national charity which provides support to people living with HIV.
“Our office has had to close because of the fighting; we are unable to access money from the banks as they too have been shut and we can’t get the programme funds so money is running out," Dougorou said in a statement.
The United Nations and the European Union have imposed a host of sanctions against Ivory Coast.
The United Nations estimates that about one million people have been uprooted from their homes in Abidjan since the post-election unrest started.
The city has turned into a war-zone since forces loyal to Ouattara, marched in on Thursday after a swift push south aimed at ousting Gbagbo.
“We are scared…we are really, really, frightened especially as youth militia have started looting homes and shops and breaking people’s cars,” a resident of Kumasi in the south east of Abidjan told AlertNet on the phone.
The man who did not want to be named said most of the city had become a no-man’s land with no police or gendarmes on the street. Fighting has concentrated around the presidential palace, the national television station and a military camp.
“People are just doing what they please especially these youth militia who were armed with Kalashnikovs (AK-47 assault rifles) by Gbagbo supporters just before the arrival of the Ouattara people,” he said.