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Visiting Africa expert urges more aid for Liberia

Visiting West Africa expert urges more aid for Liberia

By James Addis

World Vision's West Africa regional director Dan Ole Shani

World Vision will push ahead with plans to expand assistance to Liberia's war victims despite suffering a looted office and vehicles and the sinking of a ship bringing in aid supplies.

The comments were made by World Vision's West Africa regional director Dan Ole Shani, in Auckland this week for planing meetings at World Vision's New Zealand office.

Mr Ole Shani will be back in Liberia next week to oversee relief operations and counsel staff shaken by recent violence.

Mr Ole Shani will check on four World Vision feeding centres supplying food to Liberians displaced by fighting as well as the agency's health clinics.

"I also want to look at the conditions of displaced people who are not yet receiving any assistance. Aid agencies are reaching only 30 per cent of the displaced populace now living in Monrovia. There is still a long, long way to go in terms of meeting the needs," he said.

"We hope to open four more emergency feeding centres soon."

Mr Ole Shani said the security situation outside Monrovia remained extremely volatile. Despite a peace agreement between warring factions, sporadic fighting between government and rebel groups persists.

The violence has left hundreds of thousands of civilians seeking refuge ? many are hungry, sick, emaciated and traumatised.

Mr Ole Shani said it was good news that the ECOMIL peacekeeping force was spreading out from Monrovia and securing other parts of the country, but troop numbers would need to be bolstered to be effective.

"The question is whether the international community is willing to pay the price. I think it's necessary when one considers the humanitarian costs ? the loss of life ? if there is no peace," he said.

Mr Ole Shani said that despite 14 years of civil strife he maintained hope for the country's future, especially after anti-war demonstrations in Monrovia last week. He said Liberia's situation today mirrored that of neighbouring Sierra Leone, now enjoying relative peace and prosperity, after the populace recoiled with disgust at perpetual violence.

"Liberians are saying we are sick of war, we don't want it," he said.

Mr Ole Shani paid tribute to World Vision staff who had risked their lives to protect the agency's operations and assets and were currently trying to recover vehicles illegally seized by government militias.

Staff suffered a further setback last month when a chartered ship bringing relief supplies from Sierra Leone sank after hitting a sandbank during a heavy storm.

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