More than 5,000 Sierra Leone refugees return home since start of month
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, Dec. 21 (UNHCR) - With security conditions improving, more than 5,000 Sierra Leonean refugees have returned to their homes in the country's north-west Kambia district since the start of the month.
The returnees are part of a group of about 16,000 former refugees who came back from Guinea over the past year and settled north of the capital because security conditions did not permit them to return to their native district until now.
Road and sea convoys to the town of Kambia and surrounding coastal villages have taken place regularly since December 6. Returnees were welcomed in Kambia by UNHCR and non-governmental organisations as well as jubilant local community leaders.
"Their return means that peace has finally come to Sierra Leone!" one woman explained.
UNHCR distributed returnee kits to as well as a two-month food ration from the World Food Programme. UNHCR is also providing community-based assistance in the district's villages.
The refugee agency is currently assisting more than 60,000 returnees and refugees in Sierra Leone, victims of the West African country's vicious 10-year civil war.
Meanwhile, UNHCR's efforts to assist returnees and Liberian refugees in eastern Sierra Leone were hampered by unrest in the town of Koidu following the decision to halt mining in the town.
Civil disturbances between rival factions erupted Thursday, but the situation was said to be calm Friday. UNHCR, which had recently opened a field office in Koidu, instructed its local staff to return to the capital.