UNHCR starts moving displaced Liberians out of stadium
MONROVIA, Liberia, Dec 19 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency and other humanitarian organisations today started moving displaced Liberians out of a stadium that once housed 47,000 people uprooted by fighting around Monrovia.
Friday marked the start of an inter-agency effort to relocate some 7,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from SKD stadium, 15 km east of the Liberian capital, to six official IDP camps in the Montserrado area on the outskirts of Monrovia.
Some 1,500 people were scheduled to be moved on the first day to Blamasee, Fendel, Mount Barclay, Seigbeh, Ricks and Unification camps. Soldiers from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) provided security escort in the operation that also involved agencies like the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the Liberian Refugees Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) and several non-governmental organisations.
UNHCR provided 15 trucks for transport, and distributed relief items like mats, blankets and kitchen sets to the newly-relocated Liberians. The agency had earlier handed out 10,000 sticks to build additional transit centres in the IDP camps. The new arrivals will live in these temporary shelters for up to a week before they are given construction materials to build their own huts in the camps.
The relocation exercise is expected to last for three days, ending on Monday. Another 4,000 people remaining in the stadium are believed to be local residents who will be assisted back to their homes, possibly with some material assistance as well.
The current operation is part of an inter-agency effort to decongest public buildings and schools around Monrovia after tens of thousands of people converged on the capital amid fighting in June.
Meanwhile, in another attempt to return Liberia to normalcy, more than 8,500 former combatants have surrendered their weapons since the start of a disarmament and demobilisation campaign on December 7. The initiative was suspended on Wednesday for the holiday season, and will resume on January 20. Another 3,000 ex-fighters have registered for the campaign, bringing the total number of disarmed soldiers to 11,585, more than one-quarter of the estimated 40,000 ex-combatants targeted.