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Guinea: Liberian arrivals in poor physical condition

Briefing notes

Guinea: Liberian arrivals in poor physical condition

16 April 2002

More than 4,600 Liberians have fled to Guinea since the beginning of this year to escape continued fighting between government and rebel forces in their country.

Crossing the officially-closed border in groups of 100 to 150 persons per day, the recently-arrived Liberian refugees are often in extremely poor physical condition after having marched weeks before reaching safety in Guinea. Up to 20 percent are suffering from various stages of malnutrition, mostly severe.

The new Liberian refugees are arriving in Guinea via three main entry points in the south-west and south-east of Guinea. Those in the worst physical shape made a detour via Tekoulo in Guéckédou, south-west Guinea, crossing the Lofan River border between the two countries. Many of them are survivors of the Voinjama attack last December and were barely able to find food during their flight

New Liberian refugees coming from Monrovia, the Liberian capital, are in better health when they reach Guinea. They fled after hearing that the rebels had circled Monrovia. Many of them brought most of their possessions.

Also among the new arrivals are former Liberian refugees who had previously repatriated from Guinea. With their previous knowledge of Guinea, many were able to work for local Guinean farmers until UNHCR was able to transfer them to the nearly full Kouankan camp. The relocation of new refugees is done from collection points in the Macenta area, with the assistance of the local government. We are seeking land for a new camp in anticipation of further arrivals.

In all, there are some 73,000 Liberian refugees in Guinea, including about 27,000 in Kouankan and another camp - Kola. Guinea also hosts an estimated 85,000 Sierra Leonean refugees, including some 50,000 in four UNHCR camps.