Liberia: Taylor departs, a new era?
UNHCR sees the departure of Charles Taylor as a positive development that will usher in a new era for Liberia, allowing humanitarians to resume helping hundreds of thousands of people who have endured years of war and misery.
The UNHCR country representative is on his way to Monrovia today along with other senior UN officials. Later in the day, he will meet with NGOs and UNHCR local staff who have remained in Liberia throughout and continued working despite many odds. UNHCR security and logistics officers are already on the ground, together with security staff from other UN agencies, assessing the practicality of sending in more staff and supplies.
On Monday, UNHCR's regular flight into Monrovia, which was suspended in June when fighting intensified, brought food and some equipment for the agency's office in the Liberian capital.
On Wednesday, UNHCR will send in another plane with two additional international emergency staff as well as urgent supplies such as fuel and other equipment for the office. Fuel shortage has paralyzed the daily functioning of the agency's office and its assistance efforts in and around Monrovia.
A ship has been on standby for a week in Freetown, Sierra Leone, loaded with enough basic supplies - blankets, mats, plastic sheeting and soap - to help some 7,000 people, as well as fuel, food and possibly some generators or trucks. The ship is now scheduled to leave on Wednesday and arrive Friday morning at Monrovia port, where hopefully security conditions will be in place and trucks operational to offload and dispatch the supplies. This will be the first in a series of cargo flights into the country.
On return, the ship will be used by UNHCR to repatriate refugees from Sierra Leone, including the hundreds who have been encamped in and around the agency's office at Mamba Point in Monrovia.
Two aircraft from Copenhagen with telecoms equipment, vehicles and domestic items for 10,000 to 15,000 people are expected in West Africa in the coming days. Goods previously pre-positioned in the Iraq region are also being redeployed to UNHCR's stocks in Freetown and Accra, Ghana, for the Liberia operation. These include 50,000 blankets, 14,000 jerry cans, kitchen sets and lanterns as well as soap, plastic sheeting and plastic rolls.
Once UNHCR has fully returned to Liberia, the agency plans to assist up to 300,000 needy people in the country, including refugees from Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire, and Liberians who have been displaced or are returning home. To do this, the agency will also deploy a dozen emergency specialists in Liberia and other countries in the region.