A. General Situation
- Voter Registration enters its third week
- Ex-combatants protested in Grand Bassa Counties
Voter registration entered it third and final week. As of 17 May 2005, 950,000 eligible voters have registered for the upcoming 11 October 2005 elections. IDPs represented 5% of the total figure, and an overwhelming 73% of the registered IDPs have opted to vote in their county of origin. The registration process concluded on 21 May 2005. However, for returning refugees their registration process has been extended for two extra weeks and ends on 4 June 2005.
The security situation during the reporting period was generally calm after last week's disturbances by some ex-combatants protests which reached a climax with throwing of stones during the Chairman of the Transitional Government of Liberia (NTLA) visit to Ganta during which some UNMIL vehicles were targeted and wind screens shattered on 12 May 2005. However, in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, an UNMIL convoy encountered a hostile group of ex-combatants who claim their school fees were not paid.
B. HUMANITARIAN ACTIVITIES
As of 12 May 2005, a total of 141,684 IDPs had received return assistance, which represents 27,802 families located in IDPs camps in the Montserrado and Bong Counties.
IOM continues to register and truck vulnerable IDPs to their return areas from the IDP camps located in Bong County, and registration of vulnerable has started in several of the Montserrado IDP camps, this week. As of the12 May 2005 a total of 3,715 vulnerable IDPs has registered and 1,568 IDPs have so far been transported to their return areas.
In general the Mass Information Campaign aims to provide the IDPs with information relevant for their return choice and this week the IDPs were informed of the UNHCR transit centers in their counties of return. Additionally, information about distribution of the second trench food ration was provided by a WFP representative.
Additionally, information on protection issues are been disseminated especially those relating to separated and unaccompanied children during the return process (UNICEF). Public service announcement on these activities is also been air on UNMIL Radio as part of the mass information strategy.
Repatriation of Liberian refugees from asylum countries is continuing. Fifteen thousand (15,000) Liberians have been facilitated to return home since UNHCR launched its voluntary repatriation of Liberian refugees from the region. Repatriation convoys are regularly received in Lofa, Grand Cape Mount, Nimba, Bong and Bomi, areas of an expected high return. UNHCR is meanwhile simultaneously carrying out monitoring activities to collect data on the number of Liberians who continue to return home without UNHCR assistance. This is being done to ensure that this group of people equally benefit from reintegration assistance in their communities, and to also plan strategies interventions.
In Lofa County, UNHCR has donated some tents to the Voinjama Public School to help them cope with the high number of pupils as a result of a school feeding program activated by WFP. In effort to stop the migration of students, UNHCR is pursuing efforts to activate similar feeding program to UNHCR rehabilitated schools in Voinjama district. Meanwhile, UNHCR Implementing partner, Peace Winds Japan continues renovation work on the Tamba Taylor and Foya High schools.
An orphanage of 57 Liberian children was repatriated from Guinea to Sacleapea in Nimba County. Successful family tracing has been conducted for 37 of the 57 repatriated children. UNICEF and the Inter-agency Task Force on Separated Children are currently working to ensure that the 37 children are reunified, while family tracing continues for the other 20 children. These 57 children were part of the Guinea Mass Tracing List for Liberian separated children.
UNHCR also intensified its monitoring of Community Empowerment Projects (CEPs) and other projects under construction by implementing partners throughout the country. These projects target mainly communities where refugees and IDPs are expected to return in large numbers. Among projects completed were schools, clinics, community halls, bridges and water & sanitation. In areas of large return, UNHCR continues to educate and create awareness on the CEP concept and how it works in terms of successful implementation through a step-by-step approach.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a UNHCR implementing partner, carried out the distribution of tools and seeds carried out to 4,000 farmers in western Liberia. Verification visits to assess the views of the targeted farmers showed that the farmers while appreciative of the distribution complained of the insufficiency of the seeds and the need to extend coverage areas. It has been recommended that NRC include other farming communities for the remaining seeds and tools distribution. UNHCR implementing partner, LWF/WS has started pilot fishery projects (six ponds) in Salayea. The projecd will be replicated in other districts if all goes well. UNHCR plans to solicit the expertise of sister UN agencies in pursuit of this activity.
Regarding shelter, UNHCR implementing partner, Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) has completed the assessments of shelter project for 500 shelter kits and a distribution schedule is being developed.
During the reporting period, WFP distributed 322 Mt of food to benefit nearly 33,178 beneficiaries in IDP camps. In Montserrado County the distribution was completed in Promise Land, Morris Farm, Plumkor, VOA-1 and Blamasee camps while it is ongoing in Soul Clinic and Wilson Corner. General food distribution continues for the month of May.
Since the repatriation of refugees and resettlement of IDPs started in October and November 2004, some 14,746 returnees and 139,677 IDPs respectively, have received their resettlement package. The number of those who have so far collected the second trench of food package stands at 6,470 returnees and 35,051 resettled IDPs, representing respectively 43% of IDPs and 74% of returnees who should have received their second trench.
The distribution of the second trench two-month food ration to returnees and IDPs, which completes the four months resettlement food package, continued in Montserrado and Bomi counties. During this period, 23 returnees who earlier received their first trench food ration between December and early March, 2005, reported at the GTZ-Monrovia distribution site on May 11, 2005 and received their second trench food ration. Additionally, 490 returnees received their second trench food ration, totaling 16.32 metric tons.
During the reporting period, WFP visited 41 orphanages, with a caseload of 3,282 beneficiaries, in Montserrado and Margibi counties. The visits verifed the quantity of food delivered to each center, how much of that food was served and to determine the actual balances.
Under school feeding, WFP covered 11,876 beneficiaries this week in Grand Bassa county where the distribution was completed with a total of 31,877 school children served, while in River Cess the programme have started and reached, during the reporting period, 3,644 beneficiaries and 182 girls have been served as part as the take home rations for girls programme to encourage girls to remain in school.
FAO's large scale emergency assistance program for rice production during this 2005 cropping season is continuing in the 12 Counties of Liberia targeting 13,000 farm families. Except for Sinoe, Margibi and Grand Kru Counties, the assistance is expected to address the acute shortage of seed rice and tools with a view to maximize rice production, the country's main staple. The programme package includes supply of rice seed, fertilizers and tools according to the technical specifications recommended by the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the Agriculture Coordination Committee (ACC). It also includes monitoring, technical backstopping through the season and training workshops on improved farming techniques and seeds multiplication. It is anticipated that the beneficiary farming families will be able to produce their seeds for the next cropping season through this exercise. A total of 14 local and international NGOs have signed partnership agreements with FAO to handle different aspects of this programme's implementation under guidance and technical supervision of FAO technical staff based in the projects' areas.
Needs Assessment Workshop ends in Harper
UNHCR in collaboration with its implementing partner the Danish Refugee Council has in recent time organized a Needs Assessment Workshop for staff members engaged in monitoring activities. The workshop aimed to evaluate current strategy implored to collect relevant data in the areas of return and make improvement in the event of a lapse. The need for a follow-up training was underscored in order to ensure that protection issues are highlighted. The proposed workshop is intended to reinvigorate skills of monitors to effectively report on protection issues and other relevant information.
Enhancing Child Protection through collaboration
UNHCR and Child Protection Agencies operating in Maryland County have begun to initiate concrete programs to promote the welfare of children. An agreement has been reached to develop an action plan to promote children's Rights, importance of education and children's right to education. A radio show on Children's Rights and the importance of education for children has started in Pleebo, Maryland, under the guidance of UNHCR implementing partner, World Vision Liberia. Strategies are being worked out or reaching into areas that lack mass media.
The third cycle of blacksmith training has commenced in Voinjama, Lofa County targeting twenty artisans and smiths from surrounding communities within the County. Organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), the training will concentrate on the fabrication and production of quality tools which are adaptable and affordable by small-scale farmers in Northern Liberia. During the training exercises, the smiths will also produce simple carpentry and masonry tools as sidelines in order to augment the reconstruction needs of the returning refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). This batch of trainees brings to sixty (60), the number of rural blacksmiths trained under the FAO project, titled, "Training of Artisans and Blacksmiths". The trainees have consequently welcomed the moratorium recently imposed on the sale and exportation of scrap metals, which is the basic commodity for the local tools production industry.
UNICEF helped train 1,140 teachers in Maryland and Montserrado counties in providing psycho-social care to children affected by armed conflict. Eighteen school principals and eight district education officers were also given an orientation about the Community Education Investment Program (CEIP), which provides a primary education to CAFFs.
UNICEF continues to support the enrollment of demobilized children in skills training in Montserrado and Grand Bassa counties. One hundred and eighty two demobilized children have been registered into skills training projects in Montserrado (116 children) and Bassa (66 children). The children in Montserrado have undergone a two day orientation while some 20 reintegration staffs were given an orientation on the code of conduct and guidelines plus operational standards for reintegration programs.
UNICEF has distributed educational supplies to three districts in Grand Gedeh County. During the 5-day exercise, 384 school supply kits were delivered to 110 schools in the county, benefiting more than 30,000 children.
On 17 May, the humanitarian community launched the Sectoral Working Groups (SWGs) in Harper, Maryland County. In a well attended meeting held in the UNMIL conference room, 7 technical groups covering thematic areas identified by the participants were launched. The groups are 1) Agriculture - 13 members, 2) Education - 13 members, 3) Protection -11 members, 4) Water and sanitation - 11 members 5) Health - 9 members, 6) Road rehabilitation - 7 members and 7) Refugee Repatriation and Returnee Reintegration - 12 members.
During these initial sectoral meetings, the SWGs will select the chair, co-chair, and secretariat and also start formulating the Terms of Reference (ToR) and work plan. The Refugee Repatriation and Returnee Reintegration already have its ToRs. HCS will work closely with all the groups in the initial period till they are able to function on their own.
On May 14, HCS met with Mr. Gregory Groth, Second Secretary Refugee Coordinator US Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. HCS facilitated the trip to Zorzor and accompanied Mr. Groth and a representative of IRC on a field visit. The aim of the trip was the monitoring of some WatSan and Health projects funded by BPRM.
On May 14, HCS and the Second Secretary Refugee Coordinator US Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration visited the UNHCR Transit Center in Voinjama meeting the Head of Sub-Office and supervised the repatriation exercise of 440 returnees from Guinea.
On May 17, 2005 the Road Committee was re-established, working through a new structure to solve the major road issues. A representative of PakBatt Engineering team will chair the Committee, the Development Superintendent will be the Deputy Chairperson and HCS will be the secretary coordinating the rehabilitation plans. Other members of the Committee are: UNHCR, WFP, LCIP, and ICRC. The results of the first meeting are the identification of the main road issues (Voinjama-Foya road) and the possible solution. A Joint operation will be coordinated by HCS in which PakBatt 4 will contribute the necessary machines and technical assistance, UNHCR will provide trucks while LCIP will provide the manpower and WFP will provide Food-for-Work.
For further information please write to:
Senior Humanitarian Affairs Officer
Humanitarian Coordination Section - UNMIL
Mamba Point, Monrovia, Liberia