ABIDJAN, 17 February (IRIN) - Thousands
of displaced Liberians crossed into Sierra Leone following an upsurge of
hostilities between Liberian government troops and rebels in the border
town of Bo, the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Bo is some 120 km west of the capital, Monrovia, on the border between Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The fighting started on 14 February, two days after Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels captured Robertsport, capital of Grand Cape Mount County. It later spread to Tienne, also in Grand Cape Mount. Tienne is located on Ibrahim Babaginda Highway, the main road between Monrovia and the Sierra Leone border.
"The movement of thousands of Liberians into Sierra Leone [is] creating a new refugee situation in that country," OCHA said. In Liberia, OCHA added, thousands of displaced people who had returned to Cape Mount, Bomi and Gbarpolu [western counties] in September 2002, had streamed into camps in Montserrado county, straining the meager resources of host communities, and overstretched the response capacity of the humanitarian community. The displaced spoke of harassment by armed soldiers.
A build-up of government troops was continuing in Brewerville and Virginia, 10 km west of Monrovia, and "stop and search" operations had intensified around Monrovia. There were also concerns about the recruitment of teenagers reportedly sent to the frontline.
OCHA also said a health team in Grand Kru County, in the southeast, had reported that a skin disease had resurfaced in Sasstown, while four returnees from Cote d'Ivoire reportedly died of meningitis in Grand Gedeh. "Following the outbreak of yellow fever in Macenta and Nzerekore, Guinea, the WHO and ministry of health initiated surveillance in districts along the Nimba-Bong border with Guinea," OCHA said in its humanitarian update for 1-14 February. "UNICEF ordered additional vaccines and supplies that would boost programs administered by the National Drug Service."
Meanwhile WHO on Wednesday donated two vehicles and assorted office equipment worth US $39,904 to the health ministry for the implementation of an Onchocerciasis Programme in five counties in the southeast of the country: Sinoe, Maryland, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru and River Gee.
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