Liberia: 15,000 more flee fighting in northeast, UN reduces staff in border areas
A further 15,000 people have fled fighting between government and rebel forces in north-eastern Liberia, swelling the number of internal refugees there to 75,000, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Tuesday.
Meanwhile the unstable situation has forced the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to reduce staff in several key refugee-hosting areas further south, hampering its ability to help thousands of people who have fled the conflict in neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire, the UN agency said in Geneva.
Since November, UNHCR has been assisting close to 95,000 people in five transit centres in Liberia's eastern border areas. They include nearly 45,000 Liberians returning home from Côte d'Ivoire, close to 40,000 Ivorian refugees and 13,000 other West African nationals attempting to return to their countries. UNHCR said it had also reduced its staff in Maryland district on the Atlantic coat for security reasons.
The new refugees in northeast Liberia fled the town of Gbarnga in Bong county towards Totota following clashes between the government and Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels, and there were unconfirmed reports that another 2,000 internal refugees staying at a camp called TV Tower had been forced to flee for their safety again, OCHA said.
The UN humanitarian community in Liberia has sent a team to the area to gather more information, working closely with the Liberian government’s own emergency agency, the LRRRC, to determine the number and condition of the people who have fled, it added.
Fighting also recently occurred near Liberia’s capital in the northwest of the country. Kley Junction, 40 kilometres from the capital Monrovia, was the scene of fighting last week.
Within Monrovia, armed security officers are reported to have searched houses in the Mamba Point and Waterside areas as part of a “cordon and search” operation. The UN has also received reports of the forced conscription of men and women into fighting forces, OCHA said.