IRIN Update 579 of events in West Africa
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
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SIERRA LEONE: UN Decision to send peacekeepers welcomed
Aid agencies and civil society representatives have welcomed the UN Security Council's decision to send 6,000 peacekeeping troops to Sierra Leone, which WFP Regional Manager Paul Ares described as "an important step" toward stabilising peace in the country.
"It will also allow us to assist civilians living in areas where the safety of our staff has to be guaranteed," Ares, who heads WFP's West Africa Coastal Region, said.
WFP has been feeding an average 100,000 people each month in Sierra Leone since June. Insecurity forced it recently to postpone food aid distribution in Port Loko, 57 km northeast of Freetown.
The rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the government signed a peace treaty in July in which they agreed to end an eight-year war. However, a number of security incidents since then have prevented humanitarian agencies from reaching areas inaccessible for years because of fighting.
WFP said at least 1.5 million people have been cut off from aid for over one year. An international NGO, Children's Aid Direct, told IRIN it had been unable to access Lunsar, some 79 km northeast of Freetown.
Welcoming the Security Council's decision, taken on Friday, the secretary-general of the Inter Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL), Rev. Almamy Koroma, told IRIN the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) must be deployed speedily and the composition of its troops must be truly international "so they can't be co-opted by existing (local) forces".
Details on the timetable for the deployment - which could take months the countries providing soldiers and their respective numbers are yet to be decided. A UN source said discussions were in progress with India, Kenya and nations contributing already to ECOMOG, to provide soldiers for UNAMSIL.
"Nigeria will be expected to make a substantial contribution," the UN source said. That country contributed many troops to and spent heavily on ECOMOG, the subregional peacekeeping force that was first deployed, in Liberia, in 1990.
ECOMOG on Saturday completed its withdrawal from Liberia. In Sierra Leone it will co-exist with UNAMSIL and be responsible for security in and around Lungi International Airport and Freetown. Protecting the government of Sierra Leone will also be part of its mandate.
ECOMOG will begin Sierra Leone's Disarmament, Demobilisation and Rehabilitation (DDR) programme in areas where it is deployed while UNAMSIL will do so in other parts of the country.
The UN source said both peacekeeping bodies would establish joint operational centres at HQ and, perhaps, battalion level.
Under the rules of engagament which the Council has provided it, UNAMSIL will be able to act to ensure its personnel's security and freedom of movement and, within its capabilities and areas of deployment, protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, taking the government's responsibilities into account.
SIERRA LEONE: More than 625,000 children immunised against polio
A total of 627,978 children were immunised against polio in Sierra Leone's 13 districts on 9-10 October, during the first round of National Immunization Days for Polio Eradication, the World Health Organisation (WHO) office in the West African country reported.
About 93.1 percent of targeted children in accessible regions of the country - and an estimated 76.4 percent of all children under the age of five years in Sierra Leone - were immunized, WHO said.
Dr. William Aldis, the WHO representative in Sierra Leone, attributed the campaign's success in part to "emphatic, public support" from President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and former rebel faction leaders, the mobilisation and participation of mothers and communities, the efforts of volunteers, as well as good management and leadership by a team from the Health Ministry.
Other contributory factors include "unprecedented cooperation by partners, including UNICEF, Rotary International, World Food Programme, Action contre Faim (ACF), Africare, Merlin, Caritas, Cause Canada, Concern World Wide, Medecin sans Frontieres, ADRA and International Medical Corps", he said.
The second round starts on 6 November.
Following an outbreak of fighting between elements of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and former Sierra Leone Army (ex-SLA) in the eastern town of Makeni in mid-October, the coverage strategy for the second round will be revised each day depending on security reports, WHO said.
SIERRA LEONE: German help for eastern Freetown
Germany has given Sierra Leone one million marks (US $550,000) to rehabilitate eastern Freetown, which bore the brunt of destruction during a rebel invasion of the capital in January, AFP reported.
Germany Ambassador Conrad Fischer handed over the money to Sierra Leone's Foreign Minister Sama Banya on Thursday, AFP reported Fischer as saying.
Fischer said Germany had already provided funds to help reopen two primary schools in the area and would help to build 100 shelters.
GUINEA-BISSAU: Mane wants stronger military ties with Portugal
Guinea-Bissau's Military Junta intends to return to the barracks after presidential and legislative elections to be held on 28 November, according to Junta leader Brigadier-General Ansumane Mane.
But it has no intention of disbanding since its role is to maintain stability,'Publico' newspaper in Lisbon quotes Mane as saying on Friday while on a visit to Portugal.
Mane said in an interview with 'Publico' that the aim of his visit was to "strengthen technical and military cooperation between Portugal and Guinea-Bissau", the daily reported on Sunday.
Renascenca, a Portugese radio station, quoted Portugal's foreign and defence minister Jaime Gama as saying on Friday at a joint news conference with Mane that Portugal would allocate just under US $42.7 million in 1999-2001 to help Guinea-Bissau's recovery and train soldiers from that country in Portugal.
Military cooperation with Lisbon "will enable us to be in a better position to defend our country and avoid foreign invasions", Mane said.
Troops from Senegal and Guinea had supported the forces of former president Joao Bernardo Vieira against the Military Junta, which eventually ousted Vieira in May this year, 11 months after launching a rebellion against him.
WEST AFRICA: IFRC appeals for funds for flood victims
The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) has launched an appeal for two million Swiss francs for the victims of floods that have destroyed homes, farms and infrastructure in eight West African countries.
The Federation said on Friday that the money would be used to support relief operations by the region's Red Cross societies and help 77,000 people for three months to overcome the effects of heavy rains, flash floods and tropical storms that have hit West Africa since July.
The eight worst affected countries, the IFRC said, are Benin, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.
"It is now planned to supply flood victims with food, with household goods, tents and blankets to help the most vulnerable as they struggle to rebuild their lives," IFRC said.
"Health education messages will be disseminated by Red Cross volunteers, since in the period following floods there is a high risk of epidemics, particularly of diarrhoeal diseases and malaria," it added.
ABIDJAN, 25 October 1999; 18:15 GMT
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