As the deadline draws nearer for UNHCR facilitated repatriation exercise of Liberia refugees scheduled on October 1, efforts to recondition roads especially those earmarked for repatriation routes are being pursued. The rainy season has fast deteriorated the road contrition in most parts of the country. In Lofa, UNHCR implementing partner for road rehabilitation, GTZ, has disclosed that road machinery equipments such as bulldozers, grader, loader, dump trucks, water tanks and low loader for the rehabilitation roads and bridges will be in place. It has also indicated that the entity would provide road construction engineers to support the GTZ team. Also, local authority in collaboration with UN agencies, International and non-governmental organizations have formed a Road Rehabilitation Committee, to strategize in solving the current deplorable road condition. The Committee is to overseer the collection of materials requested by the local authorities to help rehabilitate the road. The committee held it's first meeting recently and stakeholders present pledged equipment, materials and manpower to carry out the road rehabilitation project in Lofa.
Also, in the Southeast, UNHCR, WFP and GTZ convened a road working group meeting to design strategy on the rehabilitation of the road. The road leading to Janzon, a border town in the north and Toe Town to B'hai Border Entry linking Ivory Coast and Liberia in Grand Gedeh County are becoming impossible. The reconditioning of this road will reduce the travel time and enable returning Liberian refugees to have direct access into Grand Gedeh County.
UNHCR Community Service Unit takes stock of its activities and gears up for the repatriation exercise
A meeting to review activities and strategize for the upcoming repatriation exercise was held recently in Gbarnga Bong County. The objectives of the meeting were first to assess progress made on key priority areas highlighted in the last Community Services workshop held in Saclepea on 15, July 2004 as well as develop plans for effective interventions during the repatriation exercise. Some of the issues reviewed included Women and Gender Equality, Children and Adolescents, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), HIV/AIDS and Person with Special Needs. The meeting aimed at developing a common approach to Community Services role, activities in managing transit centers, as well as to develop a shared understanding of Gender Mainstreaming in UNHCR programming.
Progress made to establish transit centers
Significant progress has been made in the construction of Transit centers around the country. In Voinjama, GTZ is constructing transit and drop off points in two districts of Voinjama and Zorzor. The centers have 9 habitable structures, offices of camp management and other IPs, dinning area, digging of 16 pit latrines ongoing and generator nearly completed. The Salayea drop off point is presently undergoing brushing and demarcation in preparation for the commencement of construction work. Transit Centers are primarily established to provide accommodation and protection to returnees that are being voluntarily repatriated by UNHCR. In the transit center, the returnee may spend a maximum of between one-two nights depending on situation.
In Grand Gedeh County, two transit centers are under construction. In Toe Town, GTZ has commenced site brushing, de-storming, fencing and construction of the transit center. Site clearing for the Zwedru transit has also commenced. The Zwedru site was transferred to a new area right opposite the old one. This was done in close collaboration with the local authorities that offer the parcel of land to UNHCR.A transit center has been reconstructed in Gbarnga. It has the capacity to receive between 500 to 1,000 people. In Grand Cape Mount County where the first repatriation convoy will kick of the exercise, two transit centers have been completed in Bo-waterside and in Sinje. The estimated capacity is 500 people.