Liberia ' President opens largest US gathering of Black Journalists
During a recent live video broadcast, Liberia's President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, challenged hundreds of journalists attending the annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) in Indianapolis, Indiana to "look beyond America and begin to consider the emerging democracies around the world like Liberia and formulate a partnership that has common roots". Johnson-Sirleaf, whose participation in the event was secured by UNDP as part of its on-going collaboration with NABJ, encouraged participants to share their expertise with Africa, particularly by pursuing creative ways of training African journalists both in the region and through exchanges which would bring them to the US.
The Liberian leader expressed her government's concerned over the rise of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in her country from 10% to 12% mostly occurring as a result of rape. A national commission on HIV/AIDS will be established in Liberia soon and women's education will incorporate strategies to respond to pandemic, she said.
The moderator at the opening session, NBC News Today and Weekend Edition co-host Lester Holt thanked the United Nations Development Programme and WTHR assisting with the video conference.
The NABJ annual convention is the largest gathering of journalists of colour in the US. NABJ works to empower Black journalists in the US media landscape. Prominent among speakers at the 31st installment of the event which runs from 16 through 20 August 2006 with the theme "Building on the Past...Creating Our Future" are Al Roker, Weather and Features Report, NBC News 'Today' Show; Rev. Al Sharpton, Founder, National Action Network; and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Founder, Rainbow Push Coalition; and numerous high profile journalists and media personalities.
During the opening ceremony, Mayor Bart Peterson welcomed NABJ to Indianapolis and said, "The residents are proud of the city's many cultural amenities. We hope that you will find time during your stay to sample some of the cultural, historical, entertainment, shopping and sports facilities that Indianapolis has to offer"...
A. HUMANITARIAN ACTIVITIES
Repatriation and Resettlement
WFP distributed a total of 35 Mt of food as first tranche (two months ration) resettlement package to some 877 returning Liberian refugees repatriated by UNHCR during the week under review. The returnees received both wet and dry food rations at the various transit centers before departing to their areas of return. In addition, 69 Mt of food was distributed to 2,045 resettled returnees as second tranche to complete their four months resettlement package.
UNHCR Participates in IDP Verification Exercise
The UN Refugee Agency recently participated in a one-day verification exercise in the former IDP camps on 17 August 2006. The verification exercise aimed to identify those persons who wish to return home and who are eligible to receive return assistance. It was jointly carried out by the Liberian Government, represented by the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission, LRRRC, and the World Food Program, WFP. The exercise is in line with the recommendations of the inter-agency camp closure assessment report of June 2006 to find durable solution for the 13,000 IDPs including unregistered IDPs; dismantling of the camps and rehabilitation of sites in order to mitigate environmental degradation. Nearly one hundred and fifty (150) staff members of UNHCR, LRRRC, UNICEF, SC-UK, NRC, GTZ and WFP serving as interviewers, verification/registration clerks simultaneously carried out the verification exercises in 32 former IDP camps in Bong, Grand Bassa, Montserrado and Margibi Counties.
Prior to the verification exercise, the IDPs were sensitized about the procedure, eligibility and needed documentation for participation. Information on the type of assistance and distribution areas was also provided. In addition, participating staff members also benefited from a one-day training session intended to provide skills on identification and verification techniques, processing of vulnerable and special needs and settling disputed claims. As cluster lead for Camp Management and Protection, UNHCR is charged with coordinating efforts to take corrective measures and address pressing needs that were identified during the camp closure assessment in April and May 2006. The verified IDPs will be provided one-time assistance consisting of food.and non-food items, transport by trucks to the areas of return and secondary transport grant of US$5.00.
One-day SGBV Awareness Session in Pouh Town, Grand Gedeh
A day of awareness on Sexual Gender Based Violence was held in Pouh's Town, Gbarzon District Grand Gedeh County. Organized by the SGBV Subgroup, the session brought together sixty participants representing a cross-section of the community (elders, youth, teachers, women's groups, and others). The awareness session aimed to sensitize the community on the consequences of SGBV in anticipation of reducing incidence rate, especially domestic violence in the community. The forum provided the opportunity for the residents to become acquainted with members of the SGBV Task force and their role in the community. The participants also got to understand the referral mechanism in place and how to use the system to report cases and also assist survivors. The participants were responsive to the discussions and recommended the conduct of similar activity in other communities. The SGBV Taskforce plans on repeating the sessions in Pouh and also in other districts of the county.
Emergency School Feeding (ESF)
During the reporting period, WFP delivered 25 Mt of food to schools under the NRC ALP (Accelerated Learning Programme) in Gbarpolu, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount which remained open during the on-going school holidays.
WFP Country Office continues to assess and review the capacity of the present and other interested Cooperating Partners to implement the school feeding programme during the next academic year expected to start by Mid September. The school feeding programme is expected to be one of the key feeding activities for WFP Liberia, planned to benefit over half a million school children in 2000 schools, covering all the 15 counties in the Country.
Food Support for Local Initiatives (FSLI)
During the reporting period, WFP and partners distributed a total of 432 Mt of food to 35,069 beneficiaries in support of Food for Work and Food for Training activities. Projects that benefited, include seed protection programmes implemented by FAO in Grand Gedeh County; UNMIL supported road rehabilitation projects, as well as several agricultural projects in the various counties. In addition, WFP distributed a total of 3 Mt of seed rice to swamp farmers located in five districts in Bong Country.
On 10th August, WFP conducted an FSLI workshop in Tubmanburg to strengthen the reporting mechanism of the Cooperating Partners (CPs) implementing Food For Work activities in Bomi Country. Over 23 participants from CPs, UNMIL and the Government attended the training. During the workshop, three reporting forms (progress report, distribution report, and end of project report) were discussed, and other issues related to FSLI programme were clarified.
Pipeline and Resourcing Status
WFP Country Office is currently experiencing a pipeline break on Pulses. The available pulses stock can only meet up to 60% of the beneficiary requirements for August. As a result, some food distributions have been carried out without pulses, particularly the FSLI progammes. The next shipment of pulses is expected to arrive in the Country on 01 September.
WFP Liberia operation has a total food shortfall of 4,705 Mt valued at US$ 3.6 Million over the next six months, August 2006 to January 2007. The next pipeline break is expected in October with Salt. However, major food shortfalls affecting all commodities are expected to start in January 2007. Additional pledges and resources are needed to avert shortfalls of 3,060 Mt of cereals, 180 Mt of pulses, 596 Mt of CSB, and 251 Mt of salt and 71 Mt of Sugar, from August through January 2007.
Assessments / Monitoring
The second draft report of the comprehensive food security and nutrition survey (CFSNS) has been circulated to all the key stakeholders. The final report is expected to be finalized by end of August 2006. WFP is planning to conduct a joint market review in September/October 2006 in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and FAO.
B. FIELD COORDINATION
Medical records at Palala clinic in Panta-Kpai District confirmed the following cases of acute watery diarrhea in the following four towns: Galai - 8; Palala - 1; Tomato Camp - 1; Balai - 1. In response, a team from Bong County Health Team (CHT) and Medecins du Monde (MDM) on 19 August conducted awareness and sensitization on prevention and treatment of the illness and provided chlorine for the purification of drinking water sources in Galai. The team attributed the increase in the illness partly to failure by local people to use the hand pump facilities in their area, poor personal hygiene, and lack of adequate WATSAN facilities in some areas.
On 17 August, UNHCR, LRRRC and partners conducted one-day verification and registration of IDPs in all six camps in Bong County. The exercise targeted IDPs whose names were deleted from WFP feeding logs, 'no-show' IDPs during food distribution or previous verification/registration exercises, and IDPs considered as special cases. The exercise registered and qualified 125 IDPs for assistance (18% of expected caseload). According to UNHCR and LRRRC field staff, the low number of IDPs registered could be attributed to spontaneous return, stringent selection criteria and time lapse between initial assessment and actual verification exercise.
The first Assessment Action Meeting of the Bong County Support Team (CST) held on 17th August 2006 recommended that there should be comprehensive sensitization of all stakeholders (NGOs, line ministries, UN, etc.), well-defined meeting and reporting procedures, and clear distribution of the various sector groups among the pillars of the CST.
Concern International has concluded the implementation of its Environmental Health Program in 43 towns in Suacoco, Sanoyea and Salala Districts, Bong County. The Program constructed 19 latrines and 46 hand pumps and rehabilitated seven hand pumps. The agency believes that it has met over 25% of communities' need for hand pumps and latrines in Salala District, and less than 10% for the similar facilities in Suacoco and Sanoyea Districts. However, the lack of data from other WATSAN agencies makes its difficult to determine the actual percentage of needs met in these areas.
UNMIL Bangladesh battalion and the Development Superintendent's office reported that 2 bridges in Beh Town (Jorquelleh District) and Leleh Town (Kpaii District) are damaged. Residents in these areas are cut off from UNMIL security patrols and humanitarian assistance. The Development Superintendent confirmed that EU has agreed to repair the Beh Town Bridge during the dry season; no agency has expressed interest in repairing the Leleh Town Bridge.
Following the completion of rehabilitation work, Medecins du Monde (MDM) officially opened the Jorwah clinic on August 7 in collaboration with the CHT. Jorwah (P-code LR0700269) is located close to the Liberia-Guinea border in Bong County, and the clinic will cater to residents from the town and across the border in Guinea.
On 17th August, FAO began the distribution of out-board engines to fishing communities in Nekanbo, Middle Town, Worteken, Cavalla, Karblake and Whole Garraway in Maryland County. This process is a follow-up to an earlier distribution of fishing nets, lines, etc. to these communities. This assistance would help communities to increase fish catches and generate income.
On 11th August 2006, Solidarités, a French INGO announced the suspension of its activities in Maryland County due to harassment of its international and local staff by local authorities. Solidarités has been operating in Maryland County for close to 4 years.
J. J. Dossen Hospital in Harper, Maryland County has begun distributing drugs to health facilities in Maryland and Grand Kru Counties for use in treating human ochocerciasis (River Blindness). The hospital is the only referral hospital for patients in Grand Kru, Maryland and parts of River Gee Counties.
In Maryland County, UNHCR has completed the rehabilitation of the Barraken market, and has started the rehabilitation of the immigration office at the Pedebo International Border in Maryland County. Pedebo borders Ivory Coast and Liberia on the Cavalla River.
The Government of Liberia in collaboration with UNMIL took over control of the Guthrie Rubber Plantation on 15 August 2006. Since 2003, former fighters have occupied the plantation, which lies in both Cape Mount and Bomi Counties. Attending the repossession ceremony were the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Alan Doss, and Chairman of the Joint Government of Liberia/United Nations Task Force on publicly owned rubber plantations, Dr. J. Chris Toe. The Rubber Planters' Association of Liberia will head an interim management team until a long-term management structure is set up in accordance with relevant laws.
Peace Winds Japan officially opened its field office on 14th August 2006 in Klay, the headquarter district of Bomi County. The NGO will provide shelter and WATSAN facilities in Bomi County. Its current project activities have provided house construction kits to 100 vulnerable families in the County since May 2006.
The Bomi County Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court opened its August term, presided over by His Honor Roger Juty Niles, Bomi County Circuit Court Judge.
The Superintendent of Lofa County chaired, and HCS facilitated, the first County Support Team Assessment and Action (CSTAA) meeting held at UNMIL building on 17 August. Forty (40) representatives of international organizations, NGOs, UN agencies and local authorities attended the meeting, which was merged with the monthly interagency meeting. The meeting discussed four pillars of the CST concept: security, state authority & rule of law, economic revitalization and access & delivery of basic social services and infrastructure rehabilitation.
Suggestions were offered on making the CST concept practicable and on improving the operations of the cluster/sector working groups.
A medical expert team from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation is in Voinjama to begin the rehabilitation of the Tellewoyan Hospital expected to start in October 2006. Rehabilitation will include repair works, training of hospital staff, equipping of the hospital and deployment of a Swiss medical team to assist in the running of the hospital.
Poor roads and bridges condition has hampered the work of many agencies in Lofa County. Some are reducing travel and concentrating on working in only accessible areas. The Kolahun-Vahun road is impassable to all motor vehicles, including motorbikes. Critical spots exist on the Voinjama-Zorzor road. The Kolahun-Foya and Voinjama-Kolahun roads provide restricted access to only 4-wheel drive vehicles. The PakBatt is currently doing maintenance work on km 42 and 72 of the Voinjama-Zorzor road.
In Lofa County, HCS distributed the Cholera Outbreak contingency plan to all stakeholders. Agencies are monitoring the apparent rise in cholera cases in the neighboring Forest Region of Guinea. Current data for January 1-July 27, 2006 indicate the following:
- Gueckedou: 1201 cases, 95 deaths
- Kissidougou: 181 cases, 16 deaths
- Lola: 68 cases, 20 deaths
- Nzerekore: 61 cases, 6 deaths
- Faranah: 91 cases, 5 deaths
- Conakry: 9 cases, 1 death
At a recent SGBV meeting, agencies reported a very high number of SGBV cases (142) in Lofa County. Follow-up is required to establish if this increase is as a result of awareness campaign, larger territory coverage by NGOs, higher crime rate, or a combination of all these three factors. The final version of the GBV Referral Handbook was distributed to agencies by IRC.
In Grand Gedeh County, German Agro Action (GAA) is introducing fast-producing varieties of rice and cassava cuttings to boost food production. The project will be turned over to the Government of Liberia after the experimental phase is over.
A team comprising of UNHCR, WANEP, SC -UK, NAWOCOL, WFP and HCS UNMIL visited Pouh Town on 15 August 2006 to raise awareness on Sexual and Gender Based Violence, following reports of numerous rape cases in the town. The audience comprising of 74 adults and 27 children were provided with information on the definition of SGBV, its causes and consequences, and the referral pathway for victims. During the meeting, the citizens agreed to form a SGBV Task Force team for the town. Six people (1 elder, 1 youth, 1 cleric, 2 adult females, and 1 teenager) were selected as members of the team.