Abidjan, Ivory Coast Report


Do you hear the call?

Written by Richard Lewis, with quotations from Blaise Feumba, International Director for MERCYworldwide

What a great opportunity it must be to visit your home country so soon after the termination of hostilities in a 10 year civil war in Cote d’Ivorie, with the goal of providing relief to the surviving victims of unimaginable brutality and of the chaos which reigns in the aftermath of all wars.  Blaise Feumba’s own survival is nothing short of miraculous and a terrifying story in its own right.  Held-up at a “check-point” by a band of heavily armed men in a mixture of uniforms, strip searched and humiliated and in immediate danger of being shot, it was only the presence of a business card from his stay in the Cameroon that saved him, released on a whim by one of his captors exclaiming “Cameroon is our friend!”  So many thousands were not so fortunate, murdered to discourage the civilian population, robbed, and the women and young girls raped, intentionally targeted to terrorize the whole country by forces of all parties to the conflict.  Young boys were kidnapped to serve as child-soldiers and the little girls as sex-slaves, those too young to be of any use summarily executed, machetes the weapon of choice.

Bringing the resources of MERCYworldwide to Abidjan in such difficult times made a huge impact.  Dr. Feumba’s mission was to lay the groundwork for ongoing relief programs in the areas or health, education, nutrition and housing.  Particularly venerable are the legions of abandoned and orphaned children living on the streets of this once flourishing capital city.  A significant step in achieving his mission was his appointment of Dr. Germaine Souaga as Cote D’Ivorie Project Coordinator for MERCYworldwide for Abidjan.

Dr. Souaga is an amazing woman and has already made significant strides establishing supportive relationships with a number of existing indigenous NGOs.  One notable NGO, PMI of Yopougon, cares for the medical needs in its community, focusing on the needs of mothers and young children.  It is in need of every kind of clinical supplies, particularly diagnostic kits for malaria, typhoid fever, cholera, and HIV.  Dr. Souaga has initiated contacts with MERCYworldwide’s global network of supporters, with requests for clinical equipment and operating funds, and the first shipment is underway!  The orphanage in Adjame has nearly 100 abandoned and orphaned children in its care, having rescued them from a dangerous life on the streets, where the children are routinely exposed to prostitution, drugs, crime and even murder.  Drs.’ Feumba and Souaga have established a partnering arrangement between a London faith-based organization and the orphanage to provide $500 a month for the nutrition and shelter these children so desperately need.

On a larger scale, MERCYworldwide relief programs are providing a protein-rich meal to students at schools in the poorest neighborhoods in Abidjan.  Close to starvation, thousands of kids eat one miserable meal a day, few rarely even seeing a scrap of meat or a single egg or any other source of protein.  Malnutrition allows for a host of diseases that cause illness and even death to these children.  Being hungry is uncomfortable and being infested with intestinal worms, open sores and other signs of a severely compromised immune system are a sentence of death.  Currently, our nutrition program reach a hundred children a day, with a protein filled sandwich of meat, chicken, or egg.  Only a few hundred thousand are left to help!!

The same London Faith-based organization has paired 30 widows with children with 30 London families to provide one-on-one financial support, not as gifts but as micro loans to empower these widows with the means to build their own businesses and become self-supporting in 3 years.

We often take for granted the availability of schools and hospitals within a short distance of wherever our lives take us.  Far from taking anything for granted, the survivors of the civil war would be amazed and grateful to have access to regular school for their children, even one University, or a clinic where their children can receive medical treatment.  Before the civil war, Cote d’Ivorie had a vibrant school system, universities and a number hospitals and local clinics.  Struggling to reestablish civil society in the immediate aftermath of an acrimonious civil conflict has compelled the current US supported government to make some difficult choices.  Universities are closed and schools closed or underfunded and hospitals have no medicines or supplies.  This chaotic situation prolongs the agony of the already traumatized population, suffering from the loss of the protection and support of bread-winners, there is little energy or direction left to do more than survive one more day.

MERCYworldwide’s Dr. Souaga has begun recruiting teams of volunteers from around the world to provide temporary clinics in the more underserved areas of Cote d’Ivorie, the first of which plans to arrive in Abidjan in the first part of 2013.  MERCYworldwide Relief Teams will consist of educators, social workers, nutritionists, doctors, nurses and psychologists.  Teams of self-funded volunteers will be hosted by local groups and act in support of these groups, providing relief to residents in a particular area.  The in-country MERCYworldwide team have established a center of operations and assessed the needs in conjunction with local community groups.  Training will be provided to enable these local groups to continue the relief effort long after the volunteers have returned home to family and professional careers, until the next time the call goes out!

We are all called to serve.  Do you hear the call?  Those who can go to Abidjan will. Those who are unable to help on the ground are able to serve by contributing directly to the relief effort.  Please support MERCYworldwide by donating generously and click on this link to MERCY for Abidjan which will enable you to give online.


Thanks to Dr. Blaise Feumba, Dr. Germaine Souaga, Professor Richard Lewis and Nick Bordieri for contributing to this article.