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UNHCR seeks to help thousands displaced in north-eastern Liberia


UNHCR seeks to help thousands displaced in north-eastern Liberia

The UN refugee agency is trying to send aid to an estimated 6,000 Liberians displaced by weeks of intermittent clashes in Nimba county. Elsewhere in Liberia, hundreds of people are returning home every day as security conditions improve.
7 November 2003

SACLEPEA, Liberia, Nov 7 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency is working to provide emergency aid to thousands of Liberians recently displaced in north-eastern Liberia, the last area of conflict in a country where hundreds of displaced people are returning home every day.

Over the past few weeks, intermittent clashes in north-eastern Liberia's Nimba county have forced an estimated 6,000 people to flee to Saclepea town.

UNHCR's office there had earlier reported that troops of the armed group MODEL, or Movement for Democracy in Liberia, had been battling government forces deployed in Saclepea. An air reconnaissance on Monday by the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) confirmed that some 80 armed men were advancing toward the town and that villages along the route had been burned.

However, military and defence officials said this morning that the interim government had managed to defuse the situation around the area.

UNHCR has been trying to join an inter-agency humanitarian mission to Saclepea but has been unable to secure travel clearance. On Thursday, it managed to send some supplies with a two-truck convoy of MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) Switzerland that went to Saclepea. The refugee agency is also making available its own limited supplies of jerry cans, soap and towels and kitchen sets in Saclepea to aid agencies operating in the area.

Elsewhere in Liberia, the security situation continues to improve after former president Charles Taylor went into exile in August, ending 14 years of civil conflict.

In central Liberia, the local refugee commission monitored the return of more than 1,000 displaced Liberians to villages along the highway between Monrovia and Gbarnga in the last four days of October alone.

At Zwedru in Grand Gedeh county, eastern Liberia, several thousand Liberians have gone back to their homes in the area in recent weeks from Côte d'Ivoire.

Local authorities said that an additional 4,500 people in 900 Liberian families were on the Côte d'Ivoire side preparing to move back to Liberia as soon as food and medicine become available in the area. However, humanitarian activities remain limited until the full deployment of 15,000 UN peacekeepers, expected in the coming months.

Around 257,000 Liberian refugees are in the neighbouring countries, including 147,000 who fled intensified fighting between June and August this year.