"Nearly 90 percent of refugees live in Gueckedou and nearby Nzerekoré," says Kateri Clement, CARE's team leader in Guinea. "Because of the civil war in Sierra Leone, most of the refugees who flocked to Guinea have been living in limbo for more than a year. Despite the July 7, 1999 signing of the Lome peace accords in Sierra Leone, these people are still afraid to go home."
In addition to expanding its role in food distribution for the year 2000, CARE also will assist with programs in health, education and agriculture. During the past year, a CARE staff of 200 aid workers have been distributing food (wheat flour, wheat, green peas, vegetable oil, and corn and soy blend) to 47 different Gueckedou camps.
"These people are relying heavily upon international relief agencies like CARE to assist in some return to normalcy," adds Clement. "Hopefully, the peace process will continue to progress and these hundreds of thousands of people can go home."
More than half of Sierra Leone's 4.5 million people either have been displaced during the 8-year civil war or fled the country as refugees. When they do return home, it will take years to rebuild their homes, schools, farms and businesses. Without shelter and employment, many families in Sierra Leone will not have access to food, clean water, building materials or agricultural supplies. They frequently have no choice but to rely on humanitarian assistance from CARE and other relief organizations.
"The greatest tragedy," says Clement, "is there will be one big lost generation as most of the rebels in Sierra Leone are kids."