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Liberia: flight to Guinea

Briefing notes

Liberia: flight to Guinea

14 June 2002

At least 6,800 refugees have arrived in Guinea since the 5th of June, fleeing intense fighting in northern parts of Liberia. On Tuesday, UNHCR staff visited three remote villages where the local authorities had reported the presence of new arrivals. They found large groups of hungry and exhausted refugees squatting in schools, clinics, churches and backyards . Most of them are elderly people, women and children.

Some 200 women and children sheltering in the village of Sedimay said they came mainly from the Zorzor district, in Liberia's Lofa County. They told UNHCR of their months-long trip through the bush to flee war, illness and hunger, before finding refuge in Guinea.

In two other villages, about 15 km apart, nearly 6,600 refugees were found in various public buildings. Small groups of refugees carrying bundles kept arriving from Liberia.

UNHCR is concerned about the health and sanitation situation, which is quickly deteriorating. We are also worried about the attitude of the local population, bearing in mind that Koyama was attacked last April, reportedly by rebels from Liberia. The local population fears the presence of militias among the new arrivals.

All refugees who were visited are willing to be transferred to one of UNHCR's existing camps or transit sites deeper inside Guinea, as soon as a registration team can be set up and a convoy organised. The refugees are in urgent need of food and medicine. Lack of funds is unfortunately preventing UNHCR from carrying out much-needed work on shelter construction to extend Kouankan camp and at Nonah transit centre. Financial problems have also slowed down construction work on a new site, recently authorised by the authorities.

Guinea is now hosting over 100,000 refugees from Liberia. One-fifth of them have arrived this year.