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Ivory Coast 'forgotten emergency'

Aid agencies have warned the ongoing crisis in Ivory Coast is in danger of becoming the world's "forgotten emergency".

The West African country continues to descend into chaos with thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives.

Oxfam said the number of people escaping to neighbouring Liberia rose from 40,000 to 70,000 over just a few days last week.

The charity is sending a team of aid experts and preparing to provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to refugees camped in Liberia.

Conditions for refugees and host communities in the border areas are very poor, with people receiving inadequate assistance.

Chals Wontewe, Oxfam's Country Director in Liberia said: "This could become Africa's latest forgotten crisis. Thousands of civilians are fleeing for their lives yet the international community is failing to respond adequately. The world risks being seriously unprepared for the escalating crisis in West Africa.

"For more than three months now the people of Ivory Coast have been living with the threat of violence, intimidation, economic collapse and sexual assault. The situation is now deteriorating rapidly and urgent action is needed to avert a humanitarian crisis. The conditions for refugees and communities hosting them in Liberia are extremely worrying. People are in dire need of the very basics - clean water, food and shelter."

Tensions ignited in Ivory Coast following the contested presidential election in November 2010 and has resulted in months of instability and a steep increase in violent clashes in the past week. As well as rising political and military tensions, many banks remain closed, prices of basic goods are rocketing and more than 500,000 people have lost their jobs.

Mr Wontewe added: "The next few weeks will be crucial. Governments, the UN and aid agencies must respond to the increasing need and ensure relief supplies reach eastern Liberia before the rainy season starts to hamper access.

"This must not be allowed to develop into another forgotten crisis. Growing humanitarian needs will require much more attention than they are getting at the moment, and must be backed up by significant funds and resources."

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