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UN helps Liberian refugees return to their homeland as peace takes hold

UN helps Liberian refugees return to their homeland as peace takes hold

Convoy of Liberian refugees move towards the border
In a sign of recovery in war-ravaged Liberia, the United Nations refugee agency today began a massive repatriation effort which will bring home 340,000 Liberians scattered throughout West Africa over the course of the next three years.

“This is obviously a reflection of new hope,” spokesman Ron Redmond of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told the press in Geneva.

The first airlift of nearly 100 refugees was slated to head today from the Ghanaian capital of Accra to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.

Momentum for the repatriation is expected to pick up pace as the nationwide disarmament process heads towards completion at the end of the month.

The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) just launched the final round of that effort, with approximately 1,000 combatants of the armed group Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) expected to turn in their weapons during this stage.

As stability takes hold, 50,000 refugees have gone back to Liberia so far this year on their own, often using risky methods of transport, according to UNHCR.

The agency's facilitated repatriation includes safe transport and a "dignified return," Mr. Redmond said. Once in Liberia, returning refugees will receive food rations, supplies, and HIV/AIDS information.

UNHCR has also been working with communities to rehabilitate and construct schools, water and sanitation systems, shelter, bridges and roads, which were all severely damaged during the 14-year conflict.

The agency is seeking $39 million for its Liberia operations but has so far received less than half that.