A major military offensive launched in Western Cote d'Ivoire by forces loyal to president elect Alassane Ouattara has effectively sealed off tens of thousands of vulnerable displaced persons, preventing them from receiving adequate humanitarian assistance and protection.
In the Western town of Duékoué, fighting between pro-Ouatarra and pro-Gbagbo forces have led to the displacement of some 20,000 Ivoirians and West Africans migrants who have found refuge in an overcrowded Catholic mission with little or no access to shelter, food, water and health facilities.
"Conditions at the Catholic mission are fast becoming unbearable," says Jacques Seurt, IOM Emergency Coordinator in Cote d'Ivoire.
"Terrified displaced persons have been streaming in, some with gun shot wounds as they cannot receive emergency treatment from the local hospital. All are seeking protection from the fighting. We call upon belligerents to ensure the mission remains a safe haven for the displaced."
With pro-Ouattara forces reportedly moving southwards to surround the town of Guiglo, access to some 4,000 stranded displaced individuals and families remains impossible. The displaced Ivoirians, Burkinabés, Malians and Guineans have been living at the open site without shelter, food, water or access to health facilities for more than a week.
A further 2,500 displaced persons are currently sheltering in and around the local Nazareth church and in the town hall.
Tension as well as violence also continue to grow in the country's main city, Abidjan. Despite the situation greatly hindering efforts to gauge the true extent of internal displacement in the city, IOM continues to evacuate Mauritanian migrants.
A second convoy of 659 Mauritanians arrived safely yesterday in the Malian capital Bamako and is now on its way to Mauritania. IOM is planning to organize a third convoy for some 400 Mauritanians who remain stranded in and around their embassy in Abidjan.
Meanwhile, growing numbers of Ivoirians and migrants are now also fleeing into Ghana. Many report they have suffered serious abuses, including house burning and beatings in Cote d'Ivoire. Those who have fled to Ghana say they had to sell their belongings to pay for their transportation to the border.
IOM staff at the Takoradi border crossing with Cote d'Ivoire say the reception and transit centre for migrants remains over-crowded. More than 800 people are currently there despite it having a capacity to host only 200-300 people. Many migrants as a result are being hosted in neighbouring communities.
With the situation in Cote d'Ivoire worsening on a daily basis and with more people now expected to cross into Ghana, IOM is beefing up its presence at the border with additional operational and health staff.
IOM has been asked to return at least 35,000 Guineans, Malians, Senegalese, Burkinabés and Mauritanians with more requests for assistance coming in. However, funding is urgently required to ensure that the evacuation of stranded migrants from Cote d'Ivoire can continue.