As the UK marks the 24th anniversary of the Hillsborough football disaster, Lizzie Moncada describes Save the Children’s response to a similar recent tragedy in Côte D’Ivoire.
In the UK, we’re thankful for the changes that have taken place to improve safety at mass events, such as football matches, since the Hillsborough tragedy 24 years ago.
Unfortunately, in Côte D’Ivoire that’s just not the case.
The people of Côte D’Ivoire are only just recovering from over 10 years of instability and violence, culminating in the deaths of more than 3,000 people during the last bout of violence.
Basic infrastructure at mass events is simply not a priority, making them extremely dangerous.
New year tragedy
In the early hours of 1 January 2013, thousands of Ivorians were at the Abidjan football stadium to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks.
It was meant to be a celebratory occasion, but then the crowd began to panic.
The stadium didn’t have adequate lighting or enough emergency exits. In the mad rush to leave, hundreds of people were crushed and more than 60 people died.
Thanks to money from Save the Children’s Emergency Fund, we were able to respond immediately to help the most vulnerable children and their families.
Our timely response to the Côte D’Ivoire stampede is yet another example of how the Emergency Fund enables us to react swiftly to unexpected crises.
Last week, I met 16-year-old Konate who was caught up in the stampede, and whose best friend, Estelle, was killed.
Konate told me: “People started walking on me. I thought I going to die, I was so scared.”
Konate fell unconscious and was taken to hospital with back injuries.
It wasn’t until later that she found out that her friend had died and she found this very difficult to deal with.
Save the Children was able to provide counselling for her so that she could begin to come to terms with the situation.
Konate is from one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Abidjan.
Before the stampede, she used to sell sachets of water to make a living. She carried them in a bucket on her head. Now she can’t do this because of her back injuries.
Save the Children gave her a small amount of money to support her financially through this traumatic time.
Konate says she will use it to start a business selling ‘pagnes’ (colourful African materials), something that will help her to support her family.
Konate said: “This money makes me feel better but I will never be able to forget what happened.”
As normality returns to Côte D’Ivoire, Save the Children’s work helps children to move on from the trauma they have experienced, be it in the stampede or through the years of violence and instability.
Our support helps them to lead healthier, happier lives, even if they will never be able to completely forget what has happened.