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UN relief agency demands security guarantees from Liberian government

UN relief agency demands security guarantees from Liberian government

With armed militia now setting their sights on relief camps and transit centres, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has called on the Government of Liberia to provide security guarantees before it will resume food distributions to refugees and internally-displaced people (IDPs) in camps near the capital, Monrovia.

WFP’s country director, Justin Bagirishya, today reported a direct link between food distribution and attacks on refugee and transit camps, as the long-running conflict between government troops and insurgents in Liberia continues to rage. "Following a violent assault on a camp," he said "refugees would be forced to flee the fighting, abandoning recently-distributed food, which would then seized by the armed combatants."

This grave revelation recently prompted WFP and its partners to call a consultative meeting with the Liberian Government, including the head of the Liberia Refugees, Repatriation and Resettlement Commission, a state body responsible for the fate of refugees in the country. At that meeting, the agencies requested security guarantees from the government.

"The protection of UN staff, non-governmental organizations and beneficiaries of relief food distribution is the responsibility of the government," said Mr. Bagirishya, stressing that humanitarian agencies had neither security forces nor military escort. "We work under a guaranteed security situation created by the host government."

WFP and other humanitarian organizations have lost access to 70 per cent of the country during the conflict. Earlier this year, Joh Rondo, Ricks and Wilson Corner camps, all near Monrovia, came under assault before or during food distribution.