With the political violence ongoing in Côte d'Ivoire, a new situation is silently emerging which is threatening the lives of children and adults.

"The situation in Côte d'Ivoire is not just about political deadlock; it is a situation where the entire population of 20 million people could be affected if the current humanitarian crisis escalates into a full blown emergency," says UNICEF's spokesman in Côte d'Ivoire, Louis Vigneault.

The first signs are emerging diseases which are posing a threat to more than 1.5 million children and adults.

"There are already outbreaks of yellow fever, measles and cholera in Abidjan. It is very unusual for cholera to surface during the dry season and we are concerned that power cuts in other parts of the country will reduce access to clean water and sanitation spreading the risk of epidemic to even more people," says Vigneault.

UNICEF has launched a massive campaign to reach children, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups across the country, with vaccination programs for measles, yellow fever, polio and tetanus are being rolled out. UNICEF has also treated over 500 patients with cholera, avoiding a spread of the disease outside of Abidjan.

With the fighting affecting the normal availability of food, malnutrition is also on the increase – three times higher than normal in some parts of the country.

UNICEF has provided high-protein biscuits to displaced people and set up water points, nutrition treatment centres and temporary schools. A plan is also being developed to avoid disruption of water supply during power cuts as one of the methods of preventing disease taking hold and creating a new emergency.

A girl receives a vaccination against yellow fever © UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0227/Olivier Asselin
A girl receives a vaccination against yellow fever in the northern district of Séguéla in Côte d'Ivoire.© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0227/Olivier Asselin