Côte d'Ivoire + 1 more

ACT News Update: Humanitarian crisis worsened by continued fighting in Liberia

Geneva, 28 February 2003 - The conflict in Ivory Coast and the most recent fighting between the Liberian government and the rebel force, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) have worsened the already complex humanitarian crisis in Liberia.

According to local and international media reports, the recent fighting over the past weeks in Liberia has forced close to 36,000 people to flee their homes and head towards refugee camps in the capital Monrovia. Close to 190,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) are already housed in these camps. The fighting in Ivory Coast in turn has forced thousands of Liberians who had been living as refugees in that country to flee back to Liberia, consequently increasing the number of IDPs in Liberia.

In response to the crisis, Liberian-based members of the global alliance, Action by Churches Together (ACT) International- the Lutheran World Federation/World Service (LWF/WS), Lutheran Church in Liberia (LCL), United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the Liberia Council of Churches/United Methodist Church (LCC/UMC) have come up with a co-ordinated response to assist the IDPs and refugees from neighbouring countries in Liberia.

The ACT members have issued an appeal totalling US$ 2,099,170. Their assistance will mainly focus on camp management, shelter, water and sanitation, social services, food and non-food item distribution, health services, trauma counselling, education and agriculture.

"The very high number and sudden influx of displaced people coming into the existing camps require that thousands sleep in the open and compete for the community's very scare resources," reports Charles Pitchford, representative ofLWF/WS in Liberia.

Food rations have been cut in an attempt to make the present World Food Programm stocks last, says Pitchford, adding that "the vast scarcity of safe water poses a serious potential problem which will result in water born diseases from unsafe drinking." Of grave concern is the possibility of measles and cholera outbreaks.

According to the UNHCR, the situation is expected to worsen as thousands of Ivorian refugees and Liberian returnees are waiting in limbo along border points for an opportunity to flee the Ivory Coast into Liberia.

For further information please contact:

ACT Communications Officers Callie Long (mobile/cell phone +41 79 358 3171)
Or ACT Press Officer Diana Mavunduse (mobile/cell phone + 41 79 681 1868).
ACT Web Site address: http://www.act-intl.org

ACT is a world-wide network of churches and related agencies meeting human need through coordinated emergency response.

The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.