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More relief aid arrives in Monrovia for displaced people

More relief aid arrives in Monrovia for displaced people

As humanitarian aid converges in the Liberian capital, the UN refugee agency has been persuading displaced refugees - including some 500 Sierra Leonean refugees encamped in its office compound - to return to their camps, where they can receive the relief supplies.
22 August 2003
The MV Overbeck at the Monrovia port, where it unloads relief supplies and picks up Sierra Leonean refugees going back to Freetown.

MONROVIA, Liberia, August 22 (UNHCR) - As more relief supplies arrive in the Liberian capital today, the UN refugee agency has announced that it will start moving displaced refugees back to their camps around Monrovia, where they can receive the emergency aid.

On Friday, the UNHCR-chartered MV Overbeck sailed into Monrovia port from Freetown, Sierra Leone, with relief items for 7,000 people. This includes blankets, mattresses, plastic sheeting, kitchen sets and hygiene kits. On Saturday, an airlift from Accra, Ghana, is expected to bring supplies for 10,000 people, as well as six trucks to replace UNHCR's damaged and looted fleet in Monrovia. More stocks for up to 20,000 people are scheduled to arrive from Copenhagen, Denmark, early next week.

As supplies converge in Monrovia, UNHCR has been trying to persuade refugees displaced by the recent fighting to go back to their camps outside the capital, where they will receive proper assistance - food and other relief items - from Saturday to Monday.

On Saturday, UNHCR will start moving some 500 Sierra Leonean refugees encamped at its office in Monrovia's Mamba Point area back to their camps. These refugees had sought refuge at the compound amid resurgent fighting in recent weeks, camping and sleeping along the corridors, raising concerns about safety and sanitation. After discussing with UNHCR staff, the refugee leaders have agreed to move back to their camps with help from the West African ECOMIL forces.

In the meantime, the refugee agency has been working to help improve security around the camps. It has persuaded ECOMIL to add a night patrol to the twice-daily patrols in Samukai camp, and to extend these patrols to VOA and Banjor camps soon. ECOMIL has also agreed to move its checkpoint closer to these camps, inspiring more confidence among the returning refugees.

At the same time, UNHCR has been discussing with the refugees about creating neighbourhood watches to increase surveillance in the area.

Eventually, the agency hopes that the 13,500 Sierra Leonean refugees still in Liberia will choose to return home. UNHCR has been registering those willing to repatriate on the MV Overbeck, whose next voyage to Freetown is scheduled on Sunday.

To get a clearer picture of displaced populations beyond Monrovia, UNHCR has joined other agencies on assessment missions to rebel-controlled areas like Tubmanburg, a town north of Monrovia with an estimated 20,000 displaced people, and Buchanan, south-east of the capital.

There are also an estimated 38,000 Ivorian refugees mostly in eastern Liberia, which remains inaccessible to the international aid community.