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News - October 2003

UN Inter-agency forces unite to face Liberian crisis

An 11-person humanitarian team led by Deputy UN Emergency relief Coordinator Carolyn McAskie is currently working along with NGOs and International organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to war-ravaged Liberia on different levels such as food, health, nutrition, water and sanitation.

Liberia has been the scenario of 14 years of on and off war with a recent non-stop fighting point between Liberian rebels and government forces since June 2003 that led to the resignation and exile of Liberian president Charles Taylor. Although government troops and former rebels reached a peace deal in August, both groups are accused of recent harassment and intimidation of country-side civilians. Camp-sites of Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) have recently become the battlefield of fighting forces seeking resources provided by relief agencies. The movement of some 50,000 IDPs from North-eastern villages towards Monrovia is the direct result of these clashes.

The inter-agency force includes WFP, UNHCR, WHO and UNICEF which work closely not only with NGOs but also with the forces of West African Peacekeepers known as ECOMIL in guaranteeing the security of vulnerable Liberian civilians. The UN refugee agency UNHCR, as part of the interagency effort, sent six trucks to Salala, 90 kilometers northeast of Monrovia with the first lot of plastic sheeting, food and water for the populations that fled the displaced camps area. Meanwhile, UNICEF and WFP continue distributing high-energy biscuits to thousands of IDPs who fled from Totota for Salala on rumours of rebel violence in the area.

Fears of increasing water shortage that have led to a cholera outbreak due to the mass-movement of IDPs towards already overpopulated Monrovia and Salala, are the main concerns of WHO, actively working to improve sanitation in these cities. WHO along with other UN agencies and NGOs have launched a campaign for the chlorination of water in Monrovia. NGOs and International organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, World Vision and Act International are actively working with the UN Health Organization. A Cholera Coordination Committee comprising the Ministry if Health, WHO and NGOs has been reactivated in order to control the outbreak.

Other NGOs such as Merlin and Oxfam continue effectively coordinating efforts to meet the necessities of IDPs in Liberia by providing water and sanitation, while Médecins sans Frontières has reinforced its medical units to meet critical health needs.

According to a report published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released on 5 September 2003, the Liberian Minister for Education, Mrs. Evelyn Kandakai announced that the start-up-date for school activities was set for 20 October 2003. According to UNICEF estimates, some 750,000 students are expected to attend. WFP is exploring the use of a Work-for-Food Programme as a method of payment for the services provided by teachers.

To read the most recent news about the situation in Liberia and NGO-UN agency efforts please click here.

You can also read an article published in the FAO Global Information and Early Warning System on food and agriculture (GIEWS) Website regarding the food security situation in Liberia.

For news on NGO activities in Liberia please click here.