Guinea + 1 more

Humanitarian aid to refugees, returnees and vulnerable groups in Guinée and Liberia

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Location of operation: WESTERN AFRICA
Amount of Decision: EUR 2,000,000
Decision reference number: ECHO/-WF/BUD/2006/04000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population.

1.1. - Rationale:

The 14 years of civil war in Liberia ended in August 2003 with the signature of the Accra Peace Agreement, leading to the creation of a National Transitional Government. The United Nations Mission to Liberia (UNMIL) deployed 15,000 peace keeping troops to enforce the cease-fire, secure the country, and allow access for humanitarian assistance throughout the country. Over more than 100,000 former fighters have been disarmed and demobilized. On 16 January 2006, almost two and a half years later, the inauguration of democratically elected President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf marked the end of this political transition period.

The war in Liberia killed around 250,000 people and resulted in the displacement of a third of its population. At the height of the conflict an estimated 500,000 Liberians were displaced internally and took refuge in camps, spontaneous settlements, with families, in host communities and in public places, while hundred thousands of people fled into neighboring countries, mainly Guinée, Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire. Even though the security situation has significantly improved thanks to the presence of the peacekeeping troops, there is an increased wave of criminality reported in and around major cities in the country.

Guinée, the perpetual host country for refugees from the regions, is just managing to maintain an extremely fragile political and economic equilibrium. Guinée forestière in particular is a region characterized by extreme poverty, malnutrition pockets, and is vulnerable to outbreaks of water borne diseases. Since the beginning of the organized voluntary repatriation to Liberia in November 2004, 80,274(1) out of the 340,000 Liberian refugees in official camps have returned from neighbouring countries with the assistance of UNHCR(2), while around 200,000 Liberian, including refugees unregistered in official camps, returned spontaneously.

Due to various constraints, the UNHCR could not stick to its planned figures, most of the targeted beneficiaries remaining skeptical on the outcome of the electoral process in Liberia, and/or did not want to lose the harvest period, nor the school year for their children by returning before the end of the rainy season. As of mid September 2006, another 140,793 refugees were still registered in camps, out of which 30,000 were in Guinée forestière. The organized repatriation process is expected to end in June 2007, and until that date, UNHCR plans to repatriate 60,000 more Liberian refugees.

Lofa, Maryland, Montserrado and Nimba counties in Liberia are receiving the highest numbers of returnees. The return process of 321,187 Internally Displaced people (IDPs) to their areas of origin in Liberia was declared finished in April 2006, and all camps were officially closed. The repatriation and reinstallation of those refugees and returnees still requires humanitarian assistance and support, since the majority of the country lacks adequate services including healthcare, drinking water and sanitation, shelter and livelihood opportunities. In addition, access throughout the country is difficult with many roads impassable and the sections rehabilitated rapidly deteriorating because of the heavy downpour of rains.

In Liberia, the bulk of the DG ECHO(3) humanitarian aid was allocated to survival, and to start laying the foundations for structural developments. Pursuing this engagement in Liberia is a prime necessity, as the current allocations are not sufficient to address all of the humanitarian needs, particularly because financial assistance by other main humanitarian donors decreased considerably between 2004 and 2005(4). In 2006, most of the other donors have been shifting their attention to longer-term development projects. Most of the outside funding is earmarked for governance issues such as the security sector and judicial reform, and very little funds are available for remaining purely humanitarian needs.

In Guinée, the Development Aid services of the European Commission plan to start implementing in July 2007 a 25,000,000 EUR project to support community rehabilitation, peace building and income generating activities in conflict-affected areas of Guinée forestière. Till then and in order to facilitate the Link between Relief, Rehabilitation and Development (LRRD), DG ECHO will maintain its support to the voluntary repatriation of Liberian refugees, to care and maintenance activities in the camps as well as assistance to vulnerable groups among the resident population.

Notes

(1) UNHCR, September 2006

(2) United nations Refugees Organization

(3) EC Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid - DG ECHO

(4) The financial support from OFDA to Liberia humanitarian crisis decreased from USD 24,5 million in 2004 to USD 9 million in 2005 and USD 2 million in 2006.