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Access to Monrovia people dwindles fighting rages

Liberia: access to desperate people in Monrovia dwindles with renewed fighting - UN

After two days of fierce shelling and rocket blasts, Monrovia awoke to "less intense" fighting this morning, but the renewed push by rebels to take the Liberian capital has further eroded the ability of United Nations agencies and other humanitarian workers to assist thousands of terrified people in need.

In an interview with UN Radio today, Abou Moussa, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's top envoy for Liberia, said that fighting in Monrovia had resumed this morning, but with less intensity compared to yesterday. "So, there's still hostilities between the two parties," he said, flagging his team's strong concern for the victims of the latest fighting.

Since earlier in the month, tens of thousands of people have been pouring into central Monrovia to flee the fighting on the outskirts of the city between government troops and the country's main rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). UN agencies have warned that a "dire humanitarian situation" is unfolding as refugee camps, schools and even the national stadium have become overcrowded with desperate people seeking safe haven.

Before fighting erupted in and around Monrovia, humanitarian workers had access to barely 30 per cent of Liberia. With the recent fighting in the capital, aid workers are increasingly unable to assist even those in need. UN offices remain closed today, and national staff have been instructed to remain at home.

Amid reports that a major hospital in Monrovia has been closed, a cholera outbreak affecting as many as 500 people, and reports from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) indicating that hundreds of civilians have been wounded or killed, the need for medical care is critical.

As the violence has escalated and the security situation has become more tenuous, Mr. Moussa said "unfortunately, we've been forced to evacuate our people again…so we are very much concerned about the situation of the population and we do hope that there will be a stop to the war so that we can go back and attend to their needs."

Mr. Moussa added that he feared the renewed violence would endanger the faltering Liberian peace talks underway in Accra, Ghana. Those negotiations between the Liberian Government and rebel leaders produced last week's ceasefire, which was to have paved the way for comprehensive peace talks and the proposed formation of a transitional administration.


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