More Liberians Returning to Their Homes

The Inquirer
Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted January 26, 2004

The acting humanitarian coordinator of the United Nations in Liberia has called for a quick response to address the humanitarian needs of thousands of war-weary Liberians who were returning from the bush in search of relief assistance.

Justin Bagarishya, who is also Country Director of the World Food Program (WFP) in Liberia, told reporters on Wednesday that information provided by UN peacekeepers who had deployed in rural Liberia point to a steady return of civilians to their villages of origin.

"The movement you can see is that people are returning, but we need to respond immediately to their needs", he said. "Without assistance, criminality and lawlessness will prevail, but assistance will mitigate that tendency."

Bagarishya also said that relief assistance was delivered to Tappita, Nimba county, near Liberia's border with Cote d'Ivoire. Tappita is controlled by the country's second rebel group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL). Relief missions have travelled with escorts provided by UN peacekeepers. Ethiopian UN troops have recently deployed in Tappita.

Bagarishya said the first distribution on January 17 had covered 1,000 people. Another convoy is being planned for Tappita for the end of the month, this time targeting more than 6,000 people.

The UN official also announced that a relief convoy consisting of 360 tonnes of bulgur wheat, sugar and salt would depart the capital, Monrovia on Thursday for Saclepea in Nimba county, with the assistance targeting 26,000 people in Saclepea and surrounding villages.

Bagarishya said a UN inter-agency mission would travel to the port city of Harper located near the southwestern Ivorian coastal town of Tabou with some relief supplies on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was starting this week a major agricultural programme to be implemented in April. It will benefit a total of 30,000 families.

"In the first stage of the assistance 10,000 families in Grand Gedeh and 5,000 families in Lofa counties will receive tools, including axes, machetes, hoes, rakes and shovels", ICRC said.

The ICRC disclosed that less than 20 percent of the original population of the northern Liberian county of Lofa, once considered the country's sole food basket, had returned so far, and most fields had not been cultivated for the last three years.

"In Grand Gedeh more than 80 percent of the population is already present in the villages. Planting good quality seeds will be the key to restarting a sustainable livelihood in dignity", The ICRC said.

© 2003: This article is copyrighted by The Inquirer newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved.