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Liberia: concerned over heavy toll in fighting, Annan urges access for relief workers

Liberia: concerned over heavy toll in fighting, Annan urges access for relief workers

Expressing profound concern over the heavy toll caused by continued clashes in Liberia, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged both sides in the fighting to allow relief workers into the conflict areas.

“The Secretary-General urges the dissident forces and the Government of Liberia to allow humanitarian workers safe and unhindered access to affected populations,” a UN spokesperson said, in a statement released at UN Headquarters in New York. “He calls upon the Governments of neighbouring states to cooperate in this endeavour.”

The statement said Mr. Annan “remains profoundly concerned over the heavy toll the continuing fighting in Liberia is taking on civilians and the threat it poses to the stability of other countries in the region, particularly Sierra Leone.”

Since fighting intensified last month, some 17,000 Liberians and 8,000 Sierra Leonean refugees have fled into Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, the exact number and condition of tens of thousands of civilians displaced within Liberia remain unknown because humanitarian agencies do not have access to conflict zones where vulnerable populations were living.

The movement and effectiveness of humanitarian agencies have been further disrupted by the harassment of humanitarian workers and looting of assets and supplies belonging to humanitarian organizations, spokesperson Hua Jiang said.

“The Secretary-General reiterates his call upon the international community to provide humanitarian agencies with the resources necessary to respond to the vital needs of the rising number of Liberians who have been displaced both within and outside their country’s borders,” she said.