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Guinea-Bissau: UN seeks $3.6 million to help

Guinea-Bissau: UN seeks $3.6 million to help people affected by clashes

The United Nations today appealed for $3.64 million to provide relief aid to Guinea-Bissau, where armed confrontations between the army and a faction of a Senegalese separatist group that ended earlier this month have left approximately 20,000 people in need of assistance.

Fighting between the Army and the Mouvement des forces démocratiques de la Casamance (MFDC) that raged in northern Guinea Bissau between 15 March and the end of April has displaced an estimated 10,000 people from the northern city of São Domingos and the surrounding area, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Some 7,500 of those have been internally displaced, while 2,500 have taken refuge across the border in Zinguinchor and other parts of Senegal.

The end of military operations has prompted the displaced to begin to return; however, major roads, houses and property have been destroyed and access to farmlands has been hindered by the landmines. Additionally, although the cashew harvesting season is underway, many areas are not being harvested due to the presence of mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

“While traffic has gradually resumed, the affected population still lives under precarious conditions, facing serious problems related to poor shelter and sanitary conditions, as well as limited food and water supplies,” said OCHA.

The Flash Appeal launched today aims to support humanitarian assistance for returning refugees, the internally displaced, and families that have hosted internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Most of the funds will be spent on food aid, though clearing landmines will make up the second largest single expense and has been allotted $727,000. According to the national mine action centre and the national Red Cross, the MFDC used both landmines and IEDs in the conflict zone.

Guinea-Bissau, a West African country of some 1.4 million, ranks 172 of 177 countries on the 2005 UNDP Human Development Index. As many as 32 per cent of children under five are chronically malnourished, while 5.4 per cent suffer from acute malnutrition.

Additionally, access to social services, including health, education, water and electricity, is limited and the national social and transport infrastructures are unable to meet demands. Some 44 per cent of the population lacks access to clean drinking water. In 2005, the country was struck by a nine-month cholera epidemic, which affected more than 20,000 and killed approximately 400 people.

UN agencies participating in the Flash Appeal include the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF); UN World Food Programme (WFP); UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); UN World Health Organization (WHO); UN Population Fund (UNFPA); and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

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