More than 8,000 Ivorians have fled to neighbouring countries, fearing violence linked to the October 31 presidential election, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.
The tally a week earlier was just 3,200 refugees, it said, adding that more than half of the arrivals are children, some of whom are unaccompanied or separated from their parents.
Older people and pregnant women are also among the exodus, “most carrying just a few belongings and little to no food or money,” it said in a statement.
As of Monday, more than 7,500 of the total had arrived in Liberia, the agency, known as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said.
At least 500 others have arrived in Ghana, Guinea and Togo.
“We are planning to airlift essential relief items for up to 10,000 refugees in Liberia from our stockpiles in Dubai,” the agency said.
“In support of the response by Liberian authorities, UNHCR’s teams on the ground are racing to distribute humanitarian aid, food, and cash assistance. We have deployed technical teams to address water, sanitation, and shelter needs.”
Tensions over the vote have stirred traumatic memories of elections in 2010 that unleashed a brief civil war, claiming the lives of some 3,000 people.
President Alassane Ouattara, 78, who has been declared the winner by a landslide, stirred anger in August by declaring his bid for a term in office.
Months earlier, he had vowed to step down at the end of his second term and hand on to a new generation.
But his plans were thrown into disarray when his hand-picked successor suddenly died of a heart attack.
Reversing course, he announced his candidacy, arguing that changes to the constitution in 2016 meant that a two-term limit on presidential tenure had been reset to zero.
On Monday, at least nine people were killed in election-linked violence, bringing the total since August to around 50.
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|An Ivorian soldier stands gaurd next to a door as Ivory Coast’s Constitutional Council president Mamadou Koné (not visible) arrives to announce the official results of the country’s presidential elections, at the institution’s headquarters in Abidjan in Abidjan on November 9, 2020. – The Constitutional Council on November 9, 2020 validated the re-election of outgoing President Alassane Ouattara for a third controversial term. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)|