ACT News Update Liberia: Plight of people worsening as civil crisis threatens to spiral out of control

Geneva, March 12, 2003 - Fierce fighting between government and rebel forces in the area of Toe Town in south eastern Grand Gebeh County, Liberia has forced thousands of people to flee the region.
ACT member Lutheran World Federation/World Service's representative in Liberia, Charles Pitchford reports that Toe Town itself was an area used as a transit point for thousands of people fleeing the conflict in the Ivory Coast to Liberia.

According to Pitchford, the situation in Liberia is worsening. Already the country has 200,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) living in 14 camps in the west of the country, with another 200,000 IDPs having settled in villages and cities. This most recent conflict in the Ivory Coast has resulted in approximately 100,000 people (Ivorians and those Liberians who had fled to Ivory Coast to escape the conflict in their own country) fleeing to Liberia. "The latter arrivals are becoming displaced before they can be settled," said Pitchford. "Refugees are having to be moved for (their) safety and more Liberians are being displaced as a result of new fighting in Toe Town, as well as recent conflict in Roberts Sport and Tubmanburg."

Pitchford says that although LWF/WS continues to provide assistance to the people affected by the conflict, this can only be done when it is safe enough. Local media reports suggest that the rebel force of the Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) has been joined by militia loyal to the Ivorian government, adding complexity to a conflict that has been dragging on for more than a decade.

Since the latest fighting that flared up at the beginning of March, Pitchford says that at least 25 people have been killed, including three staff members of the international NGO, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). ADRA is one of the UNHCR's implementing partners, helping construct refugee shelters in the central and eastern regions of the country.

=A0For further information please contact:

ACT Communications Officers Callie Long (mobile/cell phone +41 79 358 3171)
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