UNICEF says Guinea becoming refuge for West African child refugees

4 November 2003

The West African country of Guinea has become a haven for thousands of children fleeing the region's wars, the head of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today.

Speaking from New York, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said that border monitors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are reporting that many children - often separated from their families - are seeking shelter in Guinea.

According to UNICEF, more than a million refugees from the neighbouring countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire have fled wars and travelled to Guinea in the last decade, severely straining the country's resources.

Ms. Bellamy said many of the refugees are children, and the problem has been exacerbated by the return of Guinean youngsters from Liberia, where they had been serving as child soldiers in the Liberian civil war.

She said UNICEF has reunited many refugee children with their families, and is also trying to demobilize 2,000 Guinean child soldiers. But so far Guinea has attracted only a quarter of the funds needed to run its programmes.


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