Female Genital Mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire
Female genital mutilation is the process of partially or totally removing the external female genitalia, and is a violation of the human rights of women and girls around the globe. While many strive to ban this non-medical practice, FGM still has a grip on many countries. One such country where FGM is prevalent is Côte d’Ivoire. Here is some information regarding the practice of female genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire and the measures to eradicate it.

Female Genital Mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast, is a country located along the south coast of West Africa. With a population of about 25 million, FGM practices affect approximately 36.7% of women ages 15-67, the highest prevalence being 60% to 75% among the ethnic groups of the northwest regions of Nord, Nord-Ouest and Ouest. However, girls and women of all ages and from all different regions of Côte d’Ivoire are at risk of FGM.

The prevalence of female genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire stems from two reasons, the first being social and cultural traditions. Those who perform the actual cut are typically the older women that make it their living and perform the procedure without anesthesia and the use of medical facilities. Pressure for older girls to undergo FGM often takes place when the prospective husband and his family will not accept a bride that has not experienced it.

The second reason for FGM’s prevalence in Côte d’Ivoire traces back to the large migrant population coming in and out of the country. Many migrants originate from countries where there is little to no legal action against FGM, such as the border nations of Guinea and Mali. The frequent crossing of borders attributes to the high percentages of women and girls who experience FGM in the northwest regions.

Harms of Female Genital Mutilation

Of the four major types of FGM that the World Health Organization (WHO) identified, Côte d’Ivoire practices Type 2. There are no health benefits to any type of FGM, as the non-medical practice mutilates a normal organ of a woman’s body. Instead, FGM harms those who undergo the procedure, and the victims become increasingly at risk to develop health complications in the present moment or in the future. Women and girls who experience FGM largely suffer from the following:

  • Severe pain
  • Infection
  • Urinary and vaginal problems
  • Childbirth complications

Steps Against Female Genital Mutilation

The government of  Côte d’Ivoire created legislation targeting the practice of FGM. Article 5 of the Constitution of Côte d’Ivoire prohibits “female genital mutilation as well as any other forms of degradation of human beings.” Law No. 98-757 of 23 December 1998 criminalized the practice of FGM in all forms, which includes actions by medical professionals and by those who aid in its performance.

Since the creation of Law No. 98-757, few people who practice FGM have experienced prosecution. The Ministry for Women and the Protection of the Child and Solidarity is a major government authority in Côte d’Ivoire. It protects the country’s women and girls and ensures equality in economic, social and cultural areas. From 2008-2012, the government put a National Action Plan in place that protects women and girls from sexual violence, including FGM. Since the National Action Plan’s end, there have been no new talks to implement a new plan.

Looking Ahead

While more work is necessary to completely end female genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire and the Ivory Coast, the work of those advocating to end FGM is making a difference in the local communities. Many are starting to see the harms that the practice inflicts. Small steps are still steps toward a brighter future for the women and girls affected.

– Grace Ingles
Photo: Flickr

Ben & Jerry's Pays Cocoa Farmers a Living WageWith 75 flavors spanning from classic Vanilla and Chocolate Fudge Brownie to Phish Food and Chunky Monkey, Ben & Jerry’s operates in 38 countries. Yet, the ultra-popular brand name signifies more than a tasty frozen treat. For much of its history, Ben & Jerry’s has been an outspoken supporter of social justice movements.  Ben & Jerry’s most recent efforts to create a more equitable future prioritize providing a living wage to cocoa farmers in West Africa.

Cocoa Farming in West Africa

The vast majority of the world’s cocoa beans are grown in West Africa, and especially in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Côte d’Ivoire alone exports 30% of cocoa beans sold to such chocolate makers as Nestlé and Mars.  The global chocolate market is a large one. It generates huge profits for the mostly European manufacturers who create chocolate bars and other sweets. In addition, it is extremely profitable for the retailers who sell these products on their shelves.  In 2014, for instance, sales for chocolate confectionary added up to $100 billion.

The value chain is incredibly lopsided, though. Côte d’Ivoire exports more cocoa beans than anywhere else in the world. Around 25% of the country’s population relies upon income generated from cocoa.  Yet these cocoa farmers earn barely $1 per day, less than the $1.90 that marks the extreme poverty line. International sales for chocolate depend upon these farmers and their laborers, but they will see just over 5% of a chocolate bar’s final value.

Cocoa farmers have long faced the challenge of a volatile market since predicted demand and harvest yields can drive prices up or down. Tim Adams highlighted this problem in The Guardian after the price Côte d’Ivoire farmers received fell sharply in 2017. At the same time, Barry Callebaut, which ranks among the world’s biggest cocoa processors and chocolate manufacturers, earned 12% more the next year, with a profit of $288 million.

Improving the Supply Chain with Fairtrade

Fairtrade International is one organization working to change this disparity. Since its founding in 1994, Fairtrade has sought to give small producers a square deal by creating more transparency in the supply chain. Although the organization now works with farmers on multiple continents growing a wide variety of crops—including bananas, tealeaves, sugar cane and coffee beans—cocoa was one of its first targets. This has meant that buyers of any Fairtrade-certified chocolate bar can be sure that:

  1. The Fairtrade Minimum Price cocoa farmers receive is geared towards covering production costs, even when prices fall.
  2. Farmers also receive a Fairtrade Premium that they can use to pay for any project they wish. In the past, these have included buying new trees and improving storage facilities.
  3. Cocoa producers agree to provide good working conditions for their hired workers. Discrimination, forced labor and child labor are all banned.

Finally, Fairtrade is working to establish living incomes for small-scale farmers and agricultural workers, over and above nationally set minimum wages. According to Fairtrade, a living income should allow people to afford nutritious food, decent housing and other essential needs with a small amount set aside to pay for unexpected emergencies.

Ben & Jerry’s Commitment

Here is where the ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s is stepping up to help the cocoa farmers. The company is a longtime supporter of Fairtrade. Additionally, it has paid millions in Fairtrade Premiums to small-scale farmers growing key ingredients like cocoa. Now, however, Ben & Jerry’s has committed to paying higher prices so that 5,000 farmers in Côte d’Ivoire will earn $600,000 more per year. Divided equally, each farmer will receive about $120 in additional income.

While the price increase will not immediately fill the gap between minimum wages and a living income, Ben & Jerry’s Chief of Social Mission Dave Rapaport has hopes for the future. He told Forbes that Ben & Jerry’s work with Fairtrade is an integral part of a larger strategy—and not just in Côte d’Ivoire. “This is one further step on a longer-term journey that will continue for us,” he said, “[because] we are really committed to helping farmers in our supply chain obtain living incomes and we will be expanding those efforts to supply chains beyond cocoa.”

Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Ending Child Labor in cocoaGhana and Côte d’Ivoire are responsible for collecting around 70% of the world’s supply of cocoa beans and the industry as a whole is worth over $100 billion. However, despite the economic importance of cocoa farming for these nations, there has been controversy surrounding the people doing the farming. A large proportion of those working at these cocoa farms are children, some as young as 5 years old. These children are subjected to health and safety hazards in the form of unsafe pesticides and dangerous tools. They are also exploited and paid less than adults doing the same job. Additionally, this practice pulls children away from possible education. In a broad sense, this issue of child labor in cocoa production has gone unsolved and ignored by the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire as well as the companies profiting off of the work. The World Cocoa Foundation has asserted its commitment to ending child labor in cocoa production.

Child Labor in Cocoa Farms

According to a recent study done by NORC, the number of children working in cocoa farms has not been improving and could possibly have increased in the past few years. It found that nearly 45% of children living in agricultural homes of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire work in cocoa production. This adds up to about  1.5 million children. The same study found that in the last decade, the proportion of child labor in cocoa production has increased from 31% to 45%. As the cocoa industry continues to rapidly grow, there are no signs that child labor will decrease unless there is immediate and substantial intervention.

Past attempts to eradicate child labor in cocoa production have been poorly implemented. In 2001, a number of the largest producers of African cocoa agreed to end 70% of child labor by 2020. Significant progress toward this goal has not been achieved. A similar pledge was made in 2010 but has seen the same shortcomings. When asked of past failures in these areas, the president of the World Cocoa Foundation, Richard Scobey, said that targets were set “without fully understanding the complexity and scale” of issues of poverty and child labor in these African countries. With studies by the NORC and other groups, it seems as though the issues are better understood now than they were in past decades.

Response by the World Cocoa Foundation

In October 2020, the World Cocoa Foundation responded to the situation of child labor in cocoa farming. The Foundation came out strongly against the practice of child labor in cocoa production and set new goals to deal with the issue. Focused on Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, the first goal set is an increase in the availability of anti-child labor monitoring to 100% of locations and farms by 2025.

The World Cocoa Foundation has also announced other efforts to combat child labor that include efforts from companies, the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and other stakeholders. Firstly, the Living Income Differential pricing policy is expected to provide $1.2 billion in additional revenue for cocoa farmers. For children specifically, the government of Côte d’Ivoire will launch a $120 million pooled funding facility for primary education that aims to reach five million children, with $25 million expected from the cocoa industry. Additionally, to boost household incomes and yields, leading companies will supply training, coaching or farm development plans to local farmers.

The Road Ahead

Past attempts to end child labor show that the situation in the cocoa industry is severe and complicated and therefore must be prioritized. As the World Cocoa Foundation recommits to ending child labor in cocoa production, collaboration and commitment will serve as important factors for the success of the endeavor.

– Matthew McKee
Photo: Flickr

Digital Cash Transfers in Cote d’IvoireCote d’Ivoire had been consumed by civil conflict at the beginning of the century. However, the conflict ended in 2011, soon after the election of Alassane Ouattara. Since then, Cote d’Ivoire has been one of the fastest-growing countries in the world. However, its growth has failed to reach large portions of the population as the country still struggles with a 46.1 percent poverty rate while an additional 17.6 percent of the population lives on the edge of poverty. In 2014, the World Bank Group started working to initiate digital cash transfers in Cote d’Ivoire to assist the poorest and most disconnected.

The Rise of Mobile Money in Cote d’Ivoire

From 2012 to 2018, the number of active mobile money users grew from less than 1 million to more than 9 million. Of note, the number of mobile cellular subscribers increased from 18.1 million to 33.81 million during the same time frame. With a population of less than 28 million, it is evident how popular the use of technology is becoming in the country. Ivorians have adapted to using mobile money for several reasons:

  • Person-to-person cash transfers in Cote d’Ivoire are easy to operate.
  • Due to high fees and the historic failure of several banks in the country, more Ivorians are turning away from licensed financial institutions. In 2017, 34 percent of Ivorians had mobile money accounts compared to 15 percent with bank accounts.
  • There is a rising trend in the digitalization of secondary school feels.
  • Migrants are digitally transferring remittances back home.
  • Paying bills digitally is growing.

How the Cash Transfer Program Works

According to the World Bank, the program operates as follows: “(i) a targeting system for cash transfers; (ii) a social protection household registry; (iii) a cash transfer payment system using digital mobile money technology; and (iv) management information system and capacity-building.”

For the actual transferring of money, the government of Cote d’Ivoire has partnered with the digital financial service organization, Orange. The Account of the Ministry of Social Protection sends a wire transfer to Orange. Then, it creates e-money and puts it into the digital accounts of the intended recipients. The recipients can then access and use their money electronically or cash-out.

Initial Constraints of the Program

Despite the widespread use of mobile devices in the country, there are a few issues with the implementation of the program. Many beneficiaries already owned mobile phones. However, others are given a device through which the program struggled to adapt. Financial literacy has been another issue as some beneficiaries are unsure about how much to withdraw and how much to save. Moreover, the lack of understanding of the importance of the PIN number resulted in some beneficiaries sharing sensitive information, thus compromising their accounts. Regulatory issues such as the requirement of a state-issued ID also created challenges in ensuring beneficiaries are eligible to continue to receive their transfers.

Successes of the Program

Peer-to-peer and community-oriented training focus on increasing knowledge surrounding the operation of devices and building awareness about security best practices with accounts. Those without a proper state-issued ID have been informed on how to obtain one. In addition, exemptions have been provided which allow beneficiaries to designate a trusted transfer recipient within the household or community. This led to 100 percent of beneficiaries receiving their payments in 2018.

By going digital, administrative and transactional costs are limited. As of April 2019, 300,000 poor individuals have benefitted from the program, more than half of whom are women. Additionally, as of the same date, 720,000 individuals have been registered with the social program’s registry. This expands the number of potential future social program beneficiaries.

Overall, the implementation of cash transfers in Cote d’Ivoire is an excellent example of how technology can assist those who are most financially vulnerable and most disconnected from the rest of society.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

Countries being helped by the UNDPThe United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is a U.N. network that aims to eliminate poverty, increase resilience in poor communities, improve access to education and develop policies in struggling countries. One of the UNDP’s major projects is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This project focuses on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including no poverty, zero hunger, quality education, clean water and sanitation and climate action.

The UNDP works with multiple struggling countries around the globe to meet these goals. Out of the 170 countries and territories being aided, below is a list of eight countries being helped by the UNDP.

8 Developing Countries Being Helped by the UNDP

  1. Nigeria: Nigeria is home to the highest number of people in poverty in the world, making it one of the poorest countries being helped by the UNDP. Due to this, the UNDP’s main focus in Nigeria is eradicating poverty. Since a large percentage of the poor population are farmers, the UNDP is working to make agricultural progress in communities and addressing challenges faced in terms of sustainability. In addition, the UNDP is working to create more jobs and improve access to sustainable energy sources.
  2. Afghanistan: A large part of Afghanistan’s population faces issues with the quality of life. The UNDP in Afghanistan aims to fight extreme poverty and inequality for the most vulnerable. Significant progress has already been made in terms of education. In 2001, only 70,000 school-aged children in Afghanistan were attending school. Currently, eight million children are attending school. The UNDP worked with the Ministry of Economy in Afghanistan in 2015 to spread the importance of Sustainable Development Goals for the country.
  3. Nepal: Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia. Due in part to the UNDP’s efforts in Nepal, major progress has been made in terms of eliminating poverty. Within four years, the country has reduced the poverty rate from 25.2 percent in 2011 to 21.6 percent in 2015. Specific goals the UNDP has for Nepal include building resilience against natural disasters, improving education access and improving access to basic resources such as electricity and clean water.
  4. Côte d’Ivoire: Through the anti-poverty program that was established by the UNDP, more than a quarter of a million people’s lives have significantly improved in Côte d’Ivoire. Through this initiative, 62 community organizations received monetary donations, project funding and vocational training to help them progress and reach their goals. In terms of agricultural issues, due to this program, fishing equipment has become more easily available and affordable. In addition, crop diversity has increased, providing more income and food options.
  5. Syria: Syria is a war-torn, impoverished country. As a result, Syrian people face issues with access to basic needs. This includes housing, access to necessary services and basic needs for women and the disabled. In 2018, the UNDP introduced the UNDP-Syria Resilience Programme, that focuses on improving the livelihood of such vulnerable groups. Through this project, more than 2.8 million Syrians were able to receive aid and benefits. These interventions have also produced benefits on a larger scale, including the creation of jobs, productive assets distribution and vocational training.
  6. Thailand: A large percentage of Thailand’s population lives in rural areas. Major problems for the rural poor include human rights issues, considerable economic inequality and weak rule of law. In Thailand, the UNDP is supporting and providing aid to ongoing projects and operations dedicated to problems being faced by its citizens. A major program the UNDP is supporting is the Thailand Country Program which focuses on environmental regulation and economic development. The UNDP is also working with the Thai Royal Government.
  7. Bangladesh: One of the biggest problems faced by Bangladesh is natural disaster risk. The UNDP started a project in January 2017 which is an ongoing collaboration with the National Resilience Program, the government, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and U.N. Women. It aims to develop strategies to create lasting resilience against unpredictable natural disasters, shocks, and crisis, that strongly impact the poor community. Specific aims of the project include strengthening communities, improving recovery and response to disasters and local disaster management.
  8. The Philippines: Approximately 25 percent of the Philippines lives in poverty. The UNDP’s projects in the Philippines include development planning, policymaking and implementing sustainable practices. One of the main aims of the UNDP is to localize poverty reduction and increase community involvement. The UNDP is also going about development planning in a way that will include increasing the use of natural resources in a sustainable manner while reducing poverty.

– Nupur Vachharajani
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Empowerment in Cote d'IvoireCote d’Ivoire is a country located on the western side of the African continent. The country is known for its economy which is fueled mostly by cocoa and coffee beans. Thus, Cote d’Ivoire’s economy greatly relies on international economic fluctuations as well as climate conditions.

A predominant problem in the African country is gender inequality. Cote d’Ivoire’s functioning society is based on traditional gender roles. Women are treated more poorly than men in all aspects of life, and in many cases, men use violence in order to control the women in the household.

Gender inequality is even more glaring when it comes to education within the country. Whilst up to 53 percent of males have had an education and are literate, only 33 percent of females have had that same opportunity. This is the result of an ancient point of view that persists within Cote d’Ivoire’s society and that places more value on boys than girls. Parents are more likely to educate their sons instead of their daughters. Lack of education causes an increase in adolescent pregnancies and the spread of STD’s such as HIV-AIDS.

More worrisome is that female genital mutilation (FGM) is still a practiced tradition. The practice consists of the removal of the female external genitalia and is usually practiced for cultural reasons closely related to gender inequality. FGM has been historically performed as a way to suppress women’s enjoyment and freedom. It is a major issue, and it is, in fact, a violation of human rights. Cote d’Ivoire has one of the highest prevalence rates of FGM in West Africa.

UNICEF has taken steps towards eradicating the practice. By creating awareness through local radio and television stations, starting campaigns in order to raise money and creating women’s committees to eliminate FGM, UNICEF is taking big steps towards women’s empowerment in Cote d’Ivoire.

That same inequality is also reflected in the workplace and in the economy. Women’s employment positions in Cote d’Ivoire seem to be limited to the agricultural sector. Men dominate civil and business-related positions, whilst women are limited to collecting vegetables and selling them at local markets. Employers are biased towards men, due to the fact that they consider women to be weak and want to avoid pregnancies in the workplace. In addition, women’s lack of education compared to men reduces their employment opportunities. In order for this to change increased awareness of women’s empowerment in Cote d’Ivoire is needed.

Women’s empowerment in Cote d’Ivoire is taking a step forward by creating job opportunities for women. Such opportunities include working for the government, within business-related workplaces and in administrative positions.

The U.N. office in Cote d’Ivoire has helped launch the National Council for Women. This council will help the government in making decisions on women related issues. Women’s empowerment in Cote d’Ivoire is a work in progress, but such initiatives have already changed the lives of many women and will continue to do so in the future.

– Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

Cote d’Ivoire was once a buzzing ivory trade hub, is currently the world’s largest exporter of cocoa and home to the largest basilica on earth. The country is filled to the brim with beach resorts, rainforests and French colonial influences. The Ivory Coast, as the country is commonly referred to in English, is neighbored by five other African countries and the Atlantic Ocean. Despite how rich this country’s chocolate may be, the consequences of their health issues are extremely grim. Here are two of the top diseases in Cote d’Ivoire:


Malaria is a disease of the blood that can only be transferred by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. Malaria is a parasite, and once it is transferred, lodges in the liver and multiplies. Approximately two weeks later, the parasite moves to the bloodstream and infects red blood cells. If malaria is left untreated it can cause anemia, hypoglycemia, or cerebral malaria.

Symptoms include fever, headache, and vomiting and present themselves similar to the flu. If it is untreated, malaria may evolve into cerebral malaria. One this occurs, the capillaries carrying blood to the brain become blocked and can cause a coma, life-long learning disabilities and even death.

In 2012, the CDC determined that malaria is the third-highest cause of death in Cote d’Ivoire, claiming six percent of the total death toll. However, in 2015, malaria was the number one cause of death, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

Malaria is preventable. The most affordable form of prevention is a mosquito net. Sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets not only provides protection, but the mosquitoes are killed on contact, preventing them from biting anyone who may not have their own net under which to sleep.

There is no vaccine for malaria, but in the event that the disease is contracted, there are early treatment anti-malaria drugs, called Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). If taken, they can effectively cure malaria; however, these drugs can be hard to get to remote areas.


If left untreated, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can lead to the disease AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV/AIDS is not only one of the top diseases in Cote d’Ivoire, but across the globe. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, and unlike other viruses, once it is contracted, it can never be completely eradicated from the body. HIV makes people more susceptible to infections and certain cancers.

AIDS is the final stage of the HIV infection, but not all people who have HIV advance to AIDS. AIDS affects the immune system so severely that a person becomes vulnerable to opportunistic infections. An opportunistic infection is caused by pathogens, like a bacteria or a virus, which take advantage of an immune system that, if it was not compromised and weakened, would otherwise be able to fight it off.

HIV and AIDS can only be contracted through contact with an infected person’s blood or other bodily fluids. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but with medical assistance it can be treated and controlled.

Current HIV medication for those who test positive is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). If taken properly and regularly, it has been shown to drastically prolong life. HIV/AIDS transmission can be prevented through simple methods like using a new condom before sex, telling sexual partners if you test HIV positive, or using a clean needle.

According to the CDC, HIV/AIDS was the number one cause of death in Cote d’Ivoire in 2012, claiming 13 percent of the total death toll, but according to IHME, in 2015, it was the second leading cause of death, behind malaria.

These two top diseases in Cote d’Ivoire constantly shuffle top positions among the list of diseases ravaging the country, yet they are completely preventable. If the right methods are introduced and followed in Cote d’Ivoire, everyone can reduce their risk of contracting malaria and HIV/AIDS.

Karyn Adams

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Côte d’Ivoire
Côte d’Ivoire continues to experience aftershocks of the military coup in December 1999, which turned into an all-out civil war in 2002, leading to the creation of a North and South Côte d’Ivoire. This resolution was supposed to be disbanded in 2010, but there was a conflict over the results of the election for the new leader of the unified government, complicating the transition of power. This threw the country into another five months of the war. The political unrest in Côte d’Ivoire has created widespread economic instability and food security issues.

Following the conflicts in 2011, President Alassane Ouattara adopted the National Agricultural Investment Program (PNIA), and the National Development Plan (PND) in an effort to alleviate the widespread hunger in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as to repair social relations between the polarized country. The country is ushering into a new era of human rights, job creation, availability of social services, sustainable resource consumption and poverty reduction. This new phase, which will run until 2021, and is focused on decoupling agriculture from deforestation by using more sustainable farming methods, is projected to create 400,000 jobs. This shows that the aid given will cultivate lasting economic growth for the country.

Unfortunately, despite all the positive forward momentum in the government, Côte d’Ivoire still ranks in the bottom tenth percentile of the United Nations Development Programs Human Development Index. Twenty-three percent of the population lives below $1.25 per day. Primary school enrollment is at 50 percent. And there is still widespread hunger in Cote d’Ivoire, with 13.3 percent of the population experiencing undernourishment in 2016, and 30 percent of children under 5 years old experiencing growth stunting. The country received a global Hunger Index Score of 25.7 out of 100 in 2016.

So what’s being done about it? The World Food Program opened up a Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation to save lives and combat hunger in Côte d’Ivoire. The program has opened a school breakfast program that has fed 571,000 children. Action Against Hunger (ACF) has also started a program that has successfully provided food to 792,688 people and helped 848,698 people gain access to safe water and sanitation.

Difficulties for the future will depend on the influx of foreign aid to sustain these development projects. However, it is clear that Côte d’Ivoire is on the right track. It has reached a period of stability and has been able to focus inward on lowering hunger in Côte d’Ivoire and raising the quality of life. Things look bright for the country’s future.

Joshua Ward

Photo: Flickr

poverty in abidjanUntil the 1990s, Côte d’Ivoire was West Africa’s most stable and prosperous country. Its capital, Abidjan, offered opportunity to domestic migrants and refuge to immigrants from Côte d’Ivoire’s war-torn neighbors. But even before Côte d’Ivoire descended into chaos in 1999, the Ivorian capital saw poverty spike as the economy began to falter. In the turbulent years since 1999, Abidjan has seen its poor population placed under ever greater economic pressure. With more than a third of Abidjan’s population living in slums, the situation for Abidjan’s poor remains dire even as calm is restored in Côte d’Ivoire.

After gaining its independence from France in 1960, Côte d’Ivoire quickly stood out as a paragon of good governance. With its economy boosted by cocoa and coffee exports, the country retained strong relations with the West (particularly the U.S.) and never flirted with socialism. Côte d’Ivoire’s capital, Abidjan, became the focal point of the country’s export-oriented economy and thus attracted migrants from around the country: its population tripled between 1965 and 1975. The city also attracted refugees who fled poverty and war in Côte d’Ivoire’s neighbors, with foreigners comprising about 20 percent of the Ivorian population in 1999. Abidjan’s residents made remarkably good livelihoods, with poverty rates in the city below 5 percent until the early 1990s.

This rosy scene began to deteriorate in 1986 when the economy entered a protracted recession. Economic conditions slid further in the 1990s as cocoa and coffee prices fell. By 2000, GNP per capita had fallen a third from its 1980 level. With the national economy in a tailspin, poverty in Abidjan and the nation spiked. According to MIT sources, the poor formed 20 percent of Abidjan’s population in 1995, up from under 5 percent two years prior. Abidjan’s poor suffered disproportionately in the late 1990s from cuts to foreign aid in response to government mismanagement. More recently, the poor have borne the brunt of the intermittent civil conflict that has engulfed the country since 1999. By the time national reconciliation efforts began bearing fruit in 2008, many Abidjan residents considered two daily meals a rare luxury, and school fees proved wholly unaffordable for many families.

As in many commercial hubs of developing nations, the poor of Abidjan live largely in slums. According to recent estimates, more than one-third of Abidjan’s population resides in slums, up from 13.8 percent in 1988. The slum population is just as cosmopolitan as the city as a whole, if not more so: as of 1994, only 40 percent of slum dwellers were born in Côte d’Ivoire – most slum dwellers were born in nearby West African states. But Abidjan’s slums offer none of the promise that these immigrants and domestic migrants alike sought. According to Ivorian government surveys, more than two-thirds of slum households reside in the slums for lack of means to live elsewhere.

Recent civil calm in Côte d’Ivoire should offer solace to the poor of Abidjan – at long last, their country is on the mend. But only time will tell if Côte d’Ivoire will ever regain its reputation as a beacon of prosperity in the world’s poorest region.

– Leo Zucker

Sources: Bureau National d’Etudes Techniques et de
MIT IRIN News Global Edge-Michigan State University Abidjan US Embassy BBC BBC Skyscraper Cit
Photo: Needpix

For the past six years, the rate of chronic child malnutrition in Cote d’Ivoire has remained at a whopping 40 percent. This is slightly higher than the overall population’s malnutrition rate, which is a solid 30 percent. The Ivory Coast, located on the coastal edge of Western Africa, experiences high malnutrition rates due to a multitude of factors including high food prices and inadequate food access, which is a consequence of hot, dry weather.

Tumultuous political circumstances from the early to late 2000s divided Cote d’Ivoire into North and South; rebels then controlled its northern region. As a result, government and public services in the north were wrecked, the economy collapsed and food access was scarcer than ever. Health and food distribution services were no longer functional. Thankfully, in 2008 its government created nutrition centers in the north and east, of which there are now 14.

Yet, the regions exhibiting the highest chronic rate of malnutrition in Cote d’Ivoire are Bafing, Worodougou and Montagnes. Additionally, the Savanes, Worodougou and Montagnes regions exhibit the highest concentrated rates of consequent stunted growth. Widespread national poverty as well as thousands of displaced peoples further complicate the dire circumstances.

It is evident that Cote d’Ivoire’s government lacks the funds necessary to effectively combat its malnutrition problems. A few humanitarian organizations have assisted, most notably Action Against Hunger (ACF) from 2002 to 2011. ACF’s aid ceased abruptly when its funds were depleted. The organization retracted much of its aid and missionaries, a circumstance that somewhat reversed the critical progress it had contributed.

Diarrassouba Issouf, an official at the Family Protection Unit in Korhogo, said that the humanitarian organizations’ exits left primary areas without food and resulted in fewer women visiting nutrition sites.

Cote d’Ivoire’s stagnating and critical malnutrition levels, especially in young children, demands immediate attention. With more international humanitarian assistance and aid, more lasting improvement may be on Cote d’Ivoire’s horizon.

– Arielle Swett

Sources: All Africa, Action Against Hunger, UNICEF
Photo: News Wire