Côte d'Ivoire Seeks Assistance to Mitigate Toxic Waste Crisis

8 sep 2006

Côte d'Ivoire Seeks Assistance to Mitigate Toxic Waste Crisis

Government Claims USD 13.5 Million Needed to Mitigate Crisis

Abidjan, 8 September 2006 - Various sites in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, including a lagoon, the sewage system and areas close to water sources have been the dump site of toxic substances from the vessel 'Probo Koala' during the night of 19 August 2006. So far, three people have reportedly died and approximately 3000 affected after inhaling fumes from these substances. Reported health impacts include intestinal and respiratory problems as well as nose bleeds, nausea and vomiting.

Initial analysis by the Centre Ivorien Antipollution (CIAPOL) and the SIR laboratory maintain that the substances are characterized by an overwhelming odor, consist of approximately 528m3 of matter containing organochlorines and may emit hydrogen sulfide. Pollutants such as hydrogen sulfide are volatile and reach people through the air. Organochlorines belong to the group of persistent organic pollutants that last a long in the environment, accumulate in the food chain and can reach people through multiple pathways (e.g. through drinking water, seafood, etc.). These compounds may also be acutely toxic.

It is widely reported that public authorities may have authorized the dumping of the substances believing it was sewage. The Cabinet has been dissolved in connection with the incident.

National authorities indicated in meetings with UN officials that they do not have the capacity to fully assess and mitigate the damage. The Government officially requested international assistance and has put forward a preliminary funding request for 13.5 million USD for short and medium term response.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator requested a more detailed emergency plan to be submitted by the Ministry of Environment focusing on immediate priority needs to be submitted with an official assistance request. Meanwhile, the Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator is leading a task force that is working with national authorities to map and carry out field assessment missions to some of the sites.

The Secretariat of the Basel Convention received a request for assistance on 25 August 2006, and the Secretariat has responded positively. In accordance with Conference of Parties rules, Cote d'Ivoire may expect assistance from the Basel Convention trust fund, if an application is made.

The UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery has released 50,000 USD to the UNDP Resident Coordinator's office to assist with the coordination of the response.

In the event of a request for assistance from national authorities, the OCHA/ESB Environmental Emergencies Section (EES) expressed its intention to work with international partners, including the European Commission Civil Protection Cooperation Mechanism (MIC) which has already received a formal request for assistance through the EC Delegation in Abidjan to provide support to identify and mitigate the crisis.

This feature is based on information received from OCHA Côte d'Ivoire and media sources.