An airlift of 56 Liberian returnees from Ghana and land convoys from Guinea and Sierra Leone have brought to 15,797 the number of persons assisted under the UNHCR facilitated voluntary repatriation exercise launched October 2004. However, there are continued spontaneous returnees from the countries of asylum and UNHCR and its partners have increased efforts to capture the actual number of spontaneous returnees.
In the meantime, UNHCR continues to play a key role in the accelerated return of IDPs. A total of 145,676 IDPs have been facilitated to return to their areas of origin. The exercise has been completed in Tumutu camp and is on going in Unification camp, Mt. Barclay and the Maimu I, II, III are scheduled to shortly commence. The NFI pipeline has increased the profile of the exercise. Despite the early appearance of the rain, which poses a challenge, the IDPs, nevertheless continue to express willingness to return to their areas of origin.
In a related development, UNHCR has completed the Gaps Analyses and IDPs database. A mission to the various offices to verify the field reports, which will give a clear picture of sector intervention, by operational partners is being planned. UNHCR and UNDP will jointly undertake the mission.
News From the Field
In Bong County, UNHCR in collaboration with the interagency Task Force on HIV/AIDS had a three days HIV awareness workshop for BOCAP, a local youth group involved in HIV awareness in schools and communities in Gbarnga. The Task Force hopes to work with the youth group in its awareness raising campaigns in Bong County. The interagency SGBV focus group is also in consultation with a local theatre group to organize a month long SGBV awareness in eight districts in Bong County.
In Gbarpolu County, the SGBV Theater pilot project in Totoquelleh has received materials such as drums, radios and footballs for the implementation of project. SGBV/HIV/AIDS awareness will also be created among the youths in order to spread the message through dramas to their peer group and others within the communities.
Women groups in Grand Gedeh County are being sensitized on the need to fully participate in development activities and decisions affecting them. Several meetings to discuss the involvement of women in community development activities and HIV/AIDS awareness programs have been held with the intention of stimulating women to take charge of ongoing program interventions in their communities.
Addressing refugees' issues
UNHCR carried out its usual border mission to Butuo, Nimba County to monitor situation with regard to the 110 Ivorian refugees residing at the Butuo way station. The refugees reported loss of roofs over five tents as a result of a storm. UNHCR's Implementing partner, LUSH has commenced the rehabilitation of the tents. LUSH has also completed the rehabilitation of three wells in Sanniquelle, Nimba County as well as office space for UNHCR's government counterpart, LRRRC.
Meanwhile, the issues of housing property rights are being pursued in efforts address problems faced by returnees. In Nimba County, a meeting has been held with the Housing Committee and UNMIL Civil Affairs to assess the effectiveness of property repossession mechanisms and identify critical points that hinder the work of the committees at local level.
After 6 months of severe reconstruction, RIA Transit Center, finally reopened on 20 May. In a brief opening ceremony the Transit Center was officially turned over to UNHCR by its Implementing partner, the Concerned Christian Community (CCC). With five 10-room shelters, eight bathrooms, ten latrines, one kitchen and a distribution center, RIA Transit Center will be able to assist between 380 to 500 returnees. It will mainly receive returnees from neighboring asylum countries and those coming back by air. During the ceremony, CCC expressed its satisfaction of having been able to compete as a local NGO with UNHCR international Implementing Partners. Mrs. Mariama Brown, Executive Director of CCC, viewed this as an encouraging fact for future Liberian enterprises