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French children donate toys to displaced youngsters in Liberia – UN

French children donate toys to displaced youngsters in Liberia – UN

Toys contributed by hundreds of French children are being sent to Liberia in a United Nations-backed programme to be distributed to youngsters who were forced to flee their homes during the West African nation's brutal decade-long civil war.

This is the second annual toy collected organized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, with Aviation Sans Frontières arranging and bearing the cost to send the toys to Liberia. Last year's haul was delivered to refugee children in Chad.

The two-year-old museum, located near the Eiffel Tower in the French capital, focuses on primitive and indigenous art, cultures and civilization, and seeks to spark children's interest through regular seminars and museum visits.

Over the past year, children have been taking part in a weekly workshop called “The Other Toy,” in which they bring one of their own in good condition and make another one from recyclable materials after seeking inspiration from museum exhibits and from toys from such countries as Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal showed to them by Kra N'Guessan, the workshop leader.

UNHCR staff will distribute the toys donated by over 1,500 children from dozens of schools throughout France to community centres and schools in Liberia, and the shipment is expected to reach Monrovia this weekend.

Between October 2004 and June 2007, the agency helped over 100,000 Liberian refugees return to their home country. Another 50,000 repatriated on their own, while 325,000 people who had been displaced internally have also returned home.

UNHCR also resumed its voluntary assisted repatriation operation for Liberian refugees following a tripartite meeting in April with the Governments of Ghana and Liberia.