Côte d'Ivoire: Fear of Medicine Shortage Looms

This post is part of our special coverage Côte d'Ivoire Unrest 2011.

The political crisis in Côte d'Ivoire is ongoing, without any prospect of a solution in the short-term. Currently the country's two opposition leaders, Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, both claim to have won the November 2010 presidential elections.

Risks are not only confined to the possibility of a conflict; the Ivorian population is also being exposed to social problems as a result of the unrest.

Demonstration at the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Côte d'Ivoire. Screenshot of the Ivorian National TV channel RTI.

Demonstration at the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Côte d'Ivoire. Screenshot of the Ivorian National TV channel RTI.

On the Twitter hashtag #civ2010, Ivorians netizens have been worried about the medical situation [fr] in their country for some time.

@damsy2009 wrote [fr] on February 28, 2011:

Côte d’Ivoire : L’embargo sur les médicaments, crime humanitaire:
A la suite de l’interdiction des navires sur les ports du pays décidée par l’union européenne, les cargaisons de médicaments destinées à la Côte d’Ivoire ont été détournées vers le port de Dakar. Ces mesures de rétorsion mettent en danger de la vie de millions de malades en Côte d’Ivoire.

Côte d'Ivoire: Embargo on medicines, a humanitarian crime:
Following the banning of ships in the country's ports decided by the European Union (EU), cargos of medicine intended for Côte d'Ivoire have been diverted to the port of Dakar [Senegal]. These retaliatory measures are putting in danger the lives of millions of sick people in Côte d'Ivoire.

This post also refers to an article ‘Côte d'Ivoire: Warning against first-aid medicine shortage amidst crisis‘ [fr] published on February 3, 2011, on the website of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in which the author Patrick Slavin fears that a shortage of malarial medicine could happen within a period of two to four weeks. Malaria is the main cause of mortality for children aged five years and under [in the country].

Roadside businesses in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. Image by Flick user CJR836 (Creative Commons License).

Roadside businesses in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. Image by Flick user CJR836 (Creative Commons License).

Parfait Kouassi, president of the Côte d'Ivoire's College of Pharmacists, says he has between four to six weeks worth of supplies remaining [fr] in his [medicine] stocks. He adds in this interview [fr]:

Les ruptures avérées concernent, à l’heure actuelle, les produits de dialyse. On nous signale aussi dans le secteur public des manques concernant certaines associations d’antipaludiques. Il y a certains antibiotiques qui ont atteint les stocks d’alerte. Les stocks sont en train de baisser dangereusement, mais il est encore possible en cherchant bien d’en trouver dans le pays.

The product shortages concern, at this time, products for [kidney] dialysis. We are also informed of shortages in the public sector concerning some antimalarial medicines. Some antibiotics have reached alert stock levels. Stocks are decreasing dangerously, but it is still possible to find some products if you search well throughout the country.

But talk of “embargos on medicines” has caused strong reactions among some netizens. @nightsnake1975 writing on Twitter reminds that such embargos are forbidden:

@nightsnake1975: Non car il n'y a jamais d'embargo sur les produits médicaux c interdit. Même en Irak de SADDAM il n'y a pas eu :)

@nightsnake1975: No because there has never been any embargo on medical products, it is forbidden. Even in SADDAM's Iraq there were not any :)

@wexez agrees, but wonders if EU sanctions contribute to this shortage:

@wexez: Vrai mais les sanctions sur les importations aussi des navires de l'UE en partie y contribue peut être

@wexez: It is true, but EU sanctions on importations by ships probably partly contribute to it [the shortage]

@wexez also reminds that medicines are still able to enter the country via land [fr]:

@wexez: Il n'y a pas d'embargo sur les médicaments car ils ont le droit de rentrer par voie terrestre. Embargo sur navires oui.

@wexez: There is no embargo on medicines because they can enter through terrestrial ways. Embargo on ships, yes.

@youmchan insists on the fact that:

@youmchan: Les médicaments, par leur fragilité, voyagent par avion. Et il n'y a pas d'embargo aérien actuellement.

@youmchan: Medicines, because of their fragility, travel via air. And there is no aerial embargo for the moment.

All this does not reassures @neoliss who issued a call to Human Rights Watch, and French television channels, Itélé and BFM TV:

@neoliss: @hrw @itele @BFMTV: en côte d'ivoire – plus de médicaments pour les malades suite à l'embargo maritime de l'UE – on meurt ici

@neoliss: @hrw @itele @BFMTV: in Côte d'Ivoire – no more medicines for the sick after the maritime embargo by the EU – we are dying here

@nightsnake1975 insists on three points:

@nightsnake197: #civ2010 Il n'y a pas d'embargo sur les médicamente en CI. Le blocage est lié à la suspension de l'activité bancaire. Arreter les confusions

@nightsnake197: #civ2010 Les pharmacies ivoiriennes pourraient se faire livrer depuis le GHANA, le TOGO ou le BENIN. Cela ne se fait pas pr des pb financier

@nightsnake197: #civ2010 La réquisition de la BCEAO à des conséquences incommensurables. J'avais prevenu certains ont jubilé. Who's wrong now?

@nightsnake197: #civ2010 There is no embargo on medicines in Côte d'Ivoire. The blockage is related to the supension of banking activity. Stop the confusion.

@nightsnake197: #civ2010 Ivorian pharmacies could have their products delivered from Ghana, Togo, or Benin. This cannot be done because of financial problems.

@nightsnake197: #civ2010 Requisition of the BCEAO (Central Bank of West African States) has incommensurable consequences. I warned, some rejoiced. Who's wrong now?

And the same tweep reminds us one last time:

@nightsnake197: @chikouach #civ2010 Une fois pour toute. Compte tenu de la fragilité de la plus part des médicaments, les pdts pharm voyage par AVION

@nightsnake197: @chikouach #civ2010 Once and for all. Considering the fragility of most of the medicines, pharmaceutical products travel via AIRPLANE.

After requisition by official Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo [fr], the BCEAO [essentially] became the victim of a hold up and closed. Following this, other banks in the country closed [fr] one after another. In a press release from February 28, 2011, the BCEAO explains why it is maintaining the “temporary suspension of its activities” [fr].

The issue also brings tweep @nightsnake1975 to bring up the political situation again:

@nightsnake1975: #civ2010 Petit rappel : Ils sont où le chantre du repli sur soi. “En CI il y a tout on a pas besoin des autres” qu'ils disaient. WAKE UP

@nightsnake197: #civ2010 A little reminder: Where are the champions of isolationism and self-sufficiency now. “In Côte d'Ivoire, we have everything, we don't need others, they said. WAKE UP

In the meantime, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has suspended [certain] operations [in the west of the country] for security reasons [fr].

This post is part of our special coverage Côte d'Ivoire Unrest 2011.

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