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Liberia: UN fears need may outstrip relief resources as more people flee conflict

Liberia: UN fears need may outstrip relief resources as more people flee conflict

United Nations humanitarian agencies in Liberia are seriously concerned that that their aid resources - already in short supply - may be pressured even further as unrelenting violence between armed rebels and Government forces in the western part of the country has driven a new wave of civilians from their homes in search of safety.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the fighting between rebels from the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and Government forces - which this week spread from western to central Liberia - has sparked a new wave of displacement that could overcrowd camps and outstrip food supplies.

Over the past week, as fighting in the region intensified, residents of Gbarnga, the provincial capital of Bong County and its surrounding areas, have been fleeing southwards to Monrovia and Totota. Others fled towards the town of Ganta on the border with Guinea. The road between Ganta and Gbarnga is now cut off and the UN agencies voiced concern whether food, water, health and medical supplies can be stretched to meet the needs of the rapidly increasing number of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

While existing facilities may still be adequate to absorb the new influx, UN aid agencies fear overcrowding in the camps could lead to heightened public health risk, OCHA said. Another critical issue is that food aid stocks are being depleted quickly - a break in the pipeline is anticipated in April for pulses and for cereals in May - unless resources are found to cover the needs ahead of upcoming shipments.