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Security Council mulls text on troops for Liberia; humanitarian crisis worsens

Security Council mulls text on troops for Liberia; humanitarian crisis worsens

Ivorian refugees in Nimba county
As members of the United Nations Security Council consider a draft resolution that may soon send a multinational force to quell the violence in Liberia, UN relief workers inside the country’s war-ravaged capital warned today that conditions are critical, with food and water supplies running dangerously low, and fuel and equipment shortages continuing to hamper aid distribution.

Yesterday afternoon, the United States circulated within the Council a draft resolution that would authorize Member States to set up a multinational stabilization force to support the implementation of that country’s ceasefire agreement. Discussions on that text are now underway at the expert level.

Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that acute shortages of fuel and food continue to drive up the prices of basic commodities, hindering aid operations and compounding the critical food situation. Aid agencies say that food commodities in Monrovia are in desperately short supply, and when available, their prices are prohibitive.

More importantly, OCHA said the skyrocketing cost of fuel makes water distribution even more difficult for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) trying desperately to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people who have been driven from their homes during weeks of fighting in and around the besieged capital. Water distribution is also hindered by a shortage of trucks, due in part to looting. The NGO OXFAM said its capacity has been significantly undermined by sporadic looting sprees, but it is still supplying water to some 9,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) inside Monrovia.

While Monrovia was reported to be relatively calm, the UN continues to receive reports of people having been displaced by recent fighting near Buchanan, Liberia’s second-largest city, and Gbarnga. OCHA said thousands of internally displaced persons are reportedly on the move as a result of recent fighting around Buchanan.

As the fighting spreads into north-eastern Liberia, rebels from the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) have reportedly captured towns in Nimba county and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has cautioned that this latest offensive may send refugees in the area fleeing into nearby Guinea.

According to reports today, the rebels had made significant gains in Nimba county, taking the towns of Batuo and Glawra, UNHCR said. There were further reports that MODEL was marching on to Saclepea, which is close to Liberia's north-eastern border with Guinea. As reports of the rebel advance reached Saclepea, the town’s residents, including more than 700 Ivorian refugees living at a camp there, prepared to leave to escape the impending conflict.

UNHCR now fears that many of these refugees could be headed for Guinea, which is already host to nearly 100,000 refugees, including some 70,000 Liberians, more than 19,000 Sierra Leoneans and nearly 6,000 Ivorians. In recent weeks, some 120 Liberian refugees have been arriving every week in Guinea's south-eastern border areas.