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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

LIBERIA: Poor security hinders efforts to help displaced people in Monrovia

ABIDJAN, 16 July 2003 (IRIN) - Displaced people in the Liberian capital Monrovia continue to be plagued by frequent incidents of rape, abduction, armed robbery and looting, World Vision said on Wednesday.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also reported continued looting and a general climate of insecurity in the city of one million people. Like World Vision, it said displaced people living in camps on the edge of the city and others forced to flee their homes by two rebel attacks last month were the hardest hit.

World Vision said aid agencies had stopped distributing food to displaced people at camps in Monrovia's northern suburbs because of lawlessness in the city. "Hundreds of thousands of displaced people in [these] camps, will soon face starvation if a peaceful solution [to the Liberian conflict] is not reached immediately," it warned.

OCHA said in a situation report on Tuesday: "Many of Monrovia's internally displaced persons continue to suffer from shortages of food, clean water and basic health services. Abuses against civilian populations, especially those living on Monrovia's outskirts, are reported regularly."

It added: "Systematic looting of houses at Brewerville continues as evidenced by a flood of new merchandise on sale at Duala Market, which includes items like bath-tubs and toilets seats." Brewerville is a northwestern suburb that saw heavy fighting during two rebel assaults on Monrovia last month.

There has been no fighting in Monrovia since rebel forces abandoned their latest attempt to capture the city two weeks ago. However, the violence against civilians by gunmen fighting for President Charles Taylor has continued, despite repeated government warnings that looters would be dealt with harshly.

OCHA said the UN World Food Programme, non-governmental organizations and Liberian officials, had begun to distribute food to more than 180,000 desperate people in Monrovia.

"But food insecurity among many internally displaced persons continues to be critical. Because of a lack of security, the displaced fear to venture into the villages to look for cassava, bush yams or any other food," OCHA said.

Clean water was being delivered to only 35 camps. At some private companies were charging displaced persons 10 Liberian Dollars (US 13 cents) for five gallons of water.

"Continuous displacements and looting of relief items have made it difficult for the humanitarian community to scale up their support. Comprehensive assessment and disease surveillance has not been undertaken to determine the extent of morbidity and mortality as well as violence and other abuses," it said.

Although attention has focused on the humanitarian crisis in Monrovia, there is little information about the situation in the interior, much of it occupied by rebel forces, where a further two million people live. OCHA noted that because of the civil war the humanitarian community had lost access to over 70 percent of Liberia's population.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Food Security, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs



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