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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Sierra Leone


UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Sierra Leone

2 December 1998

Basic Facts

What we do

Promote the return of Sierra Leonean refugees (pending improvements in the security situation in the country); and provide protection and multi-sectoral assistance to Sierra Leonean refugees in countries of asylum.

Who we help

Some 450,000 Sierra Leonean refugees: 350,000 in Guinea, 90,000 in Liberia and 10,000 elsewhere. Some 180,000 refugees are expected to repatriate in 1999, either with UNHCR's assistance or spontaneously.

Our requirements

US$ 8,024,800

Our offices

Sierra Leone:
The following offices to be reopened when the situation permits:
Kambia, Kenema, Makeni, Segbweba, Zimmi.

Guinea: Conakry, Guéckédou, Nzérékoré, Macenta, Forécariah.

Liberia: Monrovia, Gbarnga, Voinjama, Vahun, Kolahun, Zwedru, Harper.

Our partners

Sierra Leone: National Commission for Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (NCRRR), Concern World-wide, Kenema Diocese Development Office, Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, Methodist Church of Sierra Leone.

Guinea: Action Contre la Faim (ACF), CARE International, Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Médecins Sans Frontières - Belgique (MSF/B), International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Ministère du Plan et de la Coopération Internationale (MPCI), Bureau Technique du Génie Rural-Guéckédou (BTGR/GU), Bureau Technique du Génie Rural-Nzjrjkorj (BTGR/NZ), Service Chrétien d'Animation pour le Développement des Oeuvres Sociales et de Secours (SECADOS), Direction Nationale des Forêts et de la Faune (DNFF), Enfants Réfugiés du Monde, Handicap International, American Refugee Committee (ARC), Danish Refugee Council (DRC), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Direction Préfectorale de la Santé (DPS), Centre Rural pour l'Éducation des Adultes, United Nations Volunteers (UNV).

Liberia: Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), Family Empowerment Programme (FEP), Initiative pour une Afrique Solidaire (IAS), Liberians United to Serve Humanity (LUSH), Save the Children Fund - UK (SCF/UK), Medical Emergency Relief International (MERLIN), Action Contre la Faim (ACF), Tear Fund Liberia (TEAR FUND), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF (LIB), Dutch Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (DRA), Centre for Law and Human Rights Education (CLHRE), Medical Emergency and Relief Co-operative International (Merci), Con Bosco Rehabilitation Programme (Don Bosco), Sustainable Development Promoters (SDP), Lutheran World Service (LWS), Children Assistance Programme (CAP), United Nations Volunteers (UNV).


Civil war erupted in Sierra Leone in March 1991 and some 380,000 people fled into neighbouring countries, mainly Guinea and Liberia. The war ended in late November 1996 when President Kabbah and Corporal Sankoh of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) signed a Peace Accord in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. UNHCR began a repatriation operation in early 1997 and helped some 2,000 refugees return home. But a coup d'état in late May 1997 resulted in another outflow of refugees and forced UNHCR to suspend its repatriation activities.

In February 1998, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC/RUF) was ousted from Freetown by forces of the ECOWAS Cease-fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG). In early March, President Kabbah returned to Freetown. But fighting continues in the interior of the country. Rebel frontlines are steadily being pushed toward the northern and eastern parts of Sierra Leone. Atrocities against civilians, perpetrated by the AFRC/RUF, have led to an influx of some 250,000 Sierra Leoneans into Guinea and Liberia.

Following the reinstatement of President Kabbah, and at the request of the Government of Sierra Leone, UNHCR started assisting the return of Sierra Leonean refugees to Freetown. More than 10,000 persons have repatriated under this programme. Most of the returnees are public servants, professionals and business people who can help rebuild the country. Meanwhile, reports indicate that a great number of Sierra Leonean refugees have been returning spontaneously to Kenema and Zimmi. In late 1998, UNHCR launched a pilot project to provide limited assistance to those spontaneous returnees and to rehabilitate some of the returnee areas.

Current situation

While the city of Freetown is relatively secure and other major towns, such as Bo and Kenema, have been liberated by ECOMOG, the overall security situation inside Sierra Leone is still uncertain. Brutal human rights violations are committed throughout the country. Remnants of the junta, retreating up-country, conduct armed attacks in border areas. A new peace-keeping operation, the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL), was set up in July 1998. Seventy military observers monitor the military and security situation in the country. But democracy is fragile in Sierra Leone; the peace is tenuous. Refugee movements, then, are fluid: some people flee rebel-controlled areas while others return to liberated regions. Roads leading to refugee camps are in bad condition in the best of times and virtually impassable between May and October, during the seasonal rains. Delivery of humanitarian assistance to the refugees is, as a result, often delayed.

Those in need of protection and assistance

Most refugees who have settled in Guinea live in the Guéckédou and Forécariah areas. The refugees originate mainly from Kailahun, Kono, Kenema and Kambia districts of Sierra Leone. In Liberia, Sierra Leonean refugees are located mainly in Cape Mount, Montserrado and Vahun. Most of them are from Bo, Kailahun, Kenema and Pujehun and are of rural background.

Protection and solutions

Security is essential to repatriation; so UNHCR closely monitors conditions in Sierra Leone to ensure that refugees can return in safety and with dignity. UNHCR will assist the return of refugees only to areas declared secure and safe by competent authorities - and verified to be so by UNHCR. UNHCR must also be granted free and unhindered access to the returnees. The agency will initiate negotiations with the Government leading to a general amnesty and other safety guarantees for all returnees.

The proximity of Sierra Leonean refugee camps in Guéckédou (Guinea) and Vahun (Liberia) to border areas is a major protection concern for UNHCR. Some camps in Guinea are being relocated further away from the border. In Liberia, more than 16,000 refugees have been transferred from Vahun to Kolahun camps since April 1998. Those still remaining in Vahun will be encouraged to move to Kolahun.

Obstacles to Protection

Despite repeated requests to the Government in Liberia, the separation of ex-combatants from the general refugee population has yet to materialize. Various other measures, including the proposed involvement of ECOMOG, will be pursued to expedite the process. In Guinea, UNHCR has not obtained access to those arrested or detained refugees and asylum-seekers alleged to be AFRC/RUF rebels.

Women and Children

Women and children, who comprise at least 75 per cent of the Sierra Leonean refugee population, benefit from special projects, such as vocational training and income-generating activities for women and recreational activities for children. A new project to assist victims of sexual violence is being developed. UNHCR coordinates its family tracing and reunification activities with UNICEF, which has developed a central data base for Sierra Leonean unaccompanied children.


Large concentrations of Sierra Leonean refugees in rural areas have negatively affected the environment, especially in Guinea. The German Government is funding a programme in Guinea to help rehabilitate the damaged environment.


As the security situation progressively improves during 1999, UNHCR will gradually shift the focus of its activities to the voluntary repatriation programme along a two-phased approach:

Phase I (facilitated)

Assuming increasing willingness of Sierra Leonean refugees to return home, an improved security situation in some areas of return, and the desire of the Government of Sierra Leone to have its citizens repatriated, UNHCR will facilitate the return of some 30,000 Sierra Leonean refugees to areas which are declared safe. Under this phase, UNHCR's presence in the areas of return, as well as assistance provided, will be limited. Returning refugees will be provided only with transportation and limited reintegration activities.

Phase II (large-scale, organized)

Should the security situation in Sierra Leone improve considerably in early 1999, UNHCR will promote large-scale organized repatriation for an estimated 50,000 persons. UNHCR will provide repatriation assistance packages (including food and household items) and launch community-based, short-term reintegration projects. UNHCR in Sierra Leone will liaise with the Government, the sectoral working groups set within the consultative forum, donors, the United Nations country team and NGOs to set up a coordinated reintegration programme. UNHCR's presence will be strengthened in the main areas of return (for exemple in Bo, Segbwema, Kenema and Zimmi) to monitor returnees and ensure their smooth reintegration.

In addition to those who will repatriate under Phases I and II, an estimated 100,000 others are expected to repatriate spontaneously during 1999.


UNHCR's Operations Management Team in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, will coordinate the repatriation operation. Activities will be implemented within the framework defined by the Government of Sierra Leone, in close coordination with the Government, donors, other United Nations agencies and NGOs.


Given the difficulties in acquiring an adequate number of trucks from other sources for the repatriation operation in Liberia, UNHCR plans to establish its own minimum fleet of trucks for the Sierra Leonean repatriation operation.

Chronic regional telecommunication problems in the sub-region disrupt the planning and implementation of operations. Appropriate and effective communication means will be made available for the Sierra Leonean repatriation operation.

Recurring armed conflicts in the major returnee areas in Sierra Leone, as well as along the border of Guinea and
Liberia, limit access and protection-monitoring activities; limit returns; weaken the absorption capacity in the areas of return; and cause further outflows of refugees into neighbouring countries.

Budget US$

The budget includes costs in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and at Headquarters.

ActivitiesSpecial Programmes
Domestic Needs/Household Support1,097,000
Water supply77,600
Shelter/Other Infrastructures376,489
Community Services194,989
Crop Production150,000
legal assistance/protection258,000
Agency Operational Support482,000
Programme Delivery Costs*1,261,100
Administrative Support costs497,800

* Includes costs for protection, monitoring and coordination.