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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

LIBERIA: Flow of returnees and refugees increasing, says UNICEF

ABIDJAN, 20 January 2003 (IRIN) - Over 26,000 Liberian returnees and refugees from Cote d'Ivoire require urgent assistance after fleeing recent military activities in the rebel-held western Ivorian cities of Danane and Man, UNICEF reported on Monday.

The returnees and refugees had been sheltered in five makeshift centers in Nimba and Grand Gedeh counties. Many more were expected to cross the Liberian border in coming weeks, UNICEF said.

"Most humanitarian agencies working in the country were not prepared to cope with this large influx of people and are revising their initial plans. Until more resources are made available, the agencies need to share meager resources with over 130,000 internally displaced persons in camps in other parts of the country," UNICEF said.

"The gravity of the problem can be measured from the fact that people are now fleeing into Liberia - one of the most war-ravaged countries in Africa. The conflict is also affecting tens of thousands of Liberians who had sought refuge in Cote d'Ivoire to escape the war in Liberia. It is feared that the numbers will swell further as there are over 47,000 displaced people near the border and another 25,000 elsewhere in the country trying to flee the fighting," it added.

Many returnees and refugees, according to the UN agency, were crossing by canoes using unofficial routes into Liberia, traveling long distances before reaching transit centers.

Details of the Liberia Emergency Programme can be obtained from www.unicef.org/emerg and www.reliefweb.int.

Meanwhile an international NGO, Africa Analysis International (AAI) reported on 12 January that the humanitarian situation in Liberia was "very grave" and the country faced economic collapse.

"Throughout the country including the capital, Monrovia, hunger, disease, fear and real pains-taking hardship and suffering are seen in the faces and life-style of the ordinary people, mainly women, children, students and rural inhabitants," AAI said in a report titled: "Liberia: A survey of the general situation".

"Liberia is ... a country with very high security risks, economic uncertainties and social disorder at varying levels. The country is at war in many sectors of national life. This war is causing death and destruction, refugee flow, internal displacement and economic distortion with devastating consequences," the report said.


Themes: (IRIN) Health & Nutrition


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