UNHCR to lay groundwork for land returns from Liberia to Sierra Leone
MONROVIA, Liberia, Sept 18 (UNHCR) - As the UN refugee agency prepares for the eventual land repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia, other aid agencies have been working to improve the medical and sanitation facilities for internally displaced Liberians around the capital, Monrovia.
On Wednesday, a UNHCR team returned to Monrovia from the Sierra Leonean border after a two-day mission to assess conditions for the land repatriation of some of the estimated 14,000 Sierra Leonean refugees still in Liberia. The team reported that the roads from Monrovia to the border are good, but that those from the border to Zimmi way station in Sierra Leone need major repairs. Road works will start as soon as possible.
The team also reported good reception conditions at Zimmi way station in Sierra Leone, with experienced field staff who are used to receiving, housing and transferring large numbers of refugees and returnees. Until recently, the way station had hosted some 100 Liberian refugees fleeing insecurity in their country. They were relocated to a camp near Kenema on Wednesday.
One of the Liberian refugees, Kahlilo Ibrahim Kalo, decided to leave his hometown of Freeport in recent weeks. "My father said I should go," explained the 24-year-old. "He said he would be ok but he was afraid that during this anarchy I might be recruited or used to carry goods for the LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy). I want to go to school now and wait until security returns and a new government is elected."
Morris Kromah, 26, was from Grand Cape Mount county in Liberia. He walked for two days with his wife and crossed the border at Baa into Sierra Leone. "They were raping and harassing and I don't want that to happen to any of us," he said. "I believe it is better to return to Liberia when things are calm. I do not feel safe there now."
UNHCR in Guinea has also reported the arrival, in recent days, of some 2,000 new Liberian refugees in the southern Guinean town of Fassankoni. They said they fled their homes in Lofa county after the departure of the Liberian army and the announced takeover of their towns by the LURD.
Back in Liberia, registration continues in camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) in and around Monrovia. UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been providing relief supplies for these displaced Liberians, while new data collected through registration will allow the World Food Programme to start another round of food distribution.
Other aid agencies have also been working to improve medical facilities at the IDP camps. The International Medical Corps has set up a clinic in Wilson camp, World Vision will re-open another at Jahtondo camp, while Save the Children Fund is running a clinic through all the camps once a week. Work is also continuing on the camps' water and sanitation facilities that were damaged either during the recent fighting or after years of disuse.
The transit shelters at these IDPs camps are almost full, and the relocation of displaced Liberians from Monrovia has been put on hold until more shelters can be built.