Liberia

Liberia: Stop using child combatants, UNICEF director urges

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MONROVIA, 10 March (IRIN) - UNICEF's regional director for West and Central Africa, Rima Salah, has appealed to the Liberian government and the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) to stop using children as combatants.
Salah told a news conference in Monrovia on Saturday, at the end of a three-day assessment mission of UNICEF programmes and the general humanitarian situation in Liberia, that all parties to the Liberian conflict were bound by international obligations to protect children.

UNICEF, she added, was also extremely concerned at the plight of internally displaced children and refugee children who had fled war in neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire.

"UNICEF is working in close collaboration with the government, other UN agencies, the donor community and various implementing partners to provide a significant response to the emergency situation facing Liberia," Salah said. "At shelters set up for internally displaced persons and people fleeing the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire, the UNICEF response has included the provision of safe drinking water, high-energy biscuits and therapeutic milk, essential drugs, vaccines as well as shelter materials."

UNICEF, she added, would lobby for more international assistance and funding to address the humanitarian needs of children in Liberia. She also appealed to Liberia's "belligerent parties to stop war and to open a corridor for peace where UNICEF and other aid agencies would have access" to children in conflict areas.

Salah held talks with the Liberian first lady, Jewel Howard-Taylor, and the government inter-agency team comprising of the gender, foreign affairs, health and planning ministries. She called for more partnership between the Liberian government and UNICEF.

[ENDS]

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