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Liberia: response to dire humanitarian situation

UN envoy heads to Liberia to plan response to dire humanitarian situation

With the long-awaited political transition underway to end hostilities in Liberia, the top United Nations envoy for the West African country is headed there to work with regional leaders on a strategy to save an estimated 1 million people on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.

Jacques Paul Klein, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative, is scheduled to leave tomorrow for the region, where he will meet with leaders and other concerned States, as well as UN and other organizations to respond to what he said is the dire humanitarian consequences of the war.

If security conditions permit, a humanitarian team led by Deputy UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Carolyn McAskie is expected to go into the capital Monrovia tomorrow. An advance humanitarian team is at the airport today preparing for the return of the UN country team.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that a humanitarian team was able to visit a site for some 17,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and that the camps lack clean water supplies, shelter and cooking materials. Diarrhoeal diseases are prevalent and there are concerns that mosquito borne disease could also spread quickly.

The UN refugee agency is moving back into Monrovia with senior and emergency staff, as well as basic relief supplies. Staff have already taken one-day test flights into the city - first to assess the situation at the airport and then around the city. Security and logistics officers are presently on the ground, together with security staff from other UN agencies, assessing the practicality of sending in more staff and supplies. Upon its full return, the agency plans to help up to 300,000 Sierra Leonean and Ivorian refugees, displaced Liberians and Liberian returnees.

Today, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) regular flight into Monrovia, which was suspended in June when fighting escalated, left with food and some equipment for the agency's office in the city. Tuesday will see 13 high-ranking officials of various UN agencies flying into Monrovia to mark the resumption of humanitarian operations there. On Wednesday, UNHCR will send in an aircraft with two additional international emergency staff as well as urgent supplies such as fuel and other equipment for its office.

In other news, the airlift by the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) from Freetown to Monrovia continued today. Six tons of ammunition, one armoured personnel carrier (APC), one truck and one land rover were flown in today. No soldiers were airlifted today because the priority is to send in supplies and equipment.


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