United Nations System
RNIS 43, November 2003
It is estimated that about 2,230,000 people are affected by the recent conflicts in West Africa; 18% are refugees, 47% are IDPs and 35% are returnees (see table). Most of them (61%) live among host communities, whilst the rest are settled in camps (OCHA, 16/10/03). Strengthening the capacity of the host community is one of the main challenges.
IDPs, refugees, returnees, West Africa, October 2003 (OCHA, 16/10/03)
A new wave of about 11,000 refugees entered Guinea from Liberia in September 2003, following fighting or insecurity in Lofa, Bong and Nimba counties (see map) (OCHA, 19/10/03; UNHCR, 30/09/03). The movement decreased in October (OCHA, 20/10/03). Refugee International reported that the conditions of the camps in the Nzerekore region have highly improved in the past years. The assessment reported that in Laine, Kouankan and Kola camps, the water-supply system was adequate, food distributions were regular and consistent and health care was provided. Refugees can also engage in farming, trading or local employment (RI, 03/09/03).
Refugee movement has been low over the past months. Most of the refugees are settled in eight camps and some live in host communities. Seeds will be distributed to refugees, both in camps and in host communities, in order that they can improve their access to food (OCHA, 31/08/03).
The implementation of the peace agreement between the "Forces Nouvelles" and President Laurent Gbagbo, signed in January 2003, is chaotic. The former rebels have suspended their participation in the Government of National Reconciliation and in the disarmament programme, since the end of September 2003 (BBC News, 24/09/03). The humanitarian situation remains precarious. In Yamoussoukrou district, an assessment showed that the host population has less and less capacity to cope with the high number of displaced (OCHA, 06/10/03). In the west, the security situation remains tense, which hampers efforts of humanitarian organisations. Expulsion of Ivorians not native to the area and of immigrants workers has been reported in the south-west area (OCHA, 04/09/03). The administration has not re-deployed in the north and the west, greatly limiting access to health care (WFP, 17/10/03).
Heavy fighting between the government army and armed opposition factions, the Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the MODEL (Movement for Democracy in Liberia), in the first semester of 2003, ended with the departure of the former president, Charles Taylor, on 11 August 2003. He has been replaced by the former vice-president, Moses Blah, and peacekeepers of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) deployed in Monrovia in early August (see RNIS 42). The armed opposition factions control a large part of the country; LURD controls the north and the centre of the country, whilst MODEL controls the south and east.
A peace agreement between the Government of Liberia, the LURD, the MODEL and the political parties was signed in Accra on 17 August 2003 (GOL/LURD/MODEL/PP, 18/08/03). The peace accord includes a total and permanent cessation of hostilities and cease-fire monitoring by a Joint Monitoring Committee; the deployment of an International Stabilisation Force; the disbanding of irregular forces, reforming and restructuring of the Liberian armed forces; security guarantees for safe and unhindered access by all humanitarian agencies throughout the country; organisation of elections not later than October 2005 and establishment of a transitional government and of a National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA). The transitional government was established on 14 October 2003; it is composed of five ministers each from LURD, MODEL and the GOL and six ministers from unarmed political parties (USAID, 15/10/03). The members of NTLA have also been nominated.
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to establish the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), a 15,000-strong stabilisation force (UNSC, 19/09/03); the ECOWAS was transferred to the authority of the UNMIL on first October 2003. The UNMIL is expected to reach 15,000 troops by the end of the year. Monrovia has been declared a weapons-free zone (USAID, 15/10/03).
Despite the implementation of the peace process, the security situation has been volatile, with fighting between the armed parties and harassment of civilian populations, especially in Lofa, Bong and Nimba counties. Totota, Kakata, Salala, Gbarnga and Sanoyea have been especially affected (OCHA, 23/09/03; UNHCR, 24/09/03;WV, 08/09/03). This has led to the displacement of more than 50,000 people inside Liberia, of whom some were already displaced people living in camps, and more than 10,000 persons fled into Guinea (see Guinea). Camps have been looted and civilians harassed. It seems that deployment of ECOMIL forces in Kakata, Salala and Totota has calmed the situation (OCHA, 11/09/03). Camp conditions in Salala and Totota were reported to be inadequate, with overcrowding and insufficient sanitation facilities (OCHA, 21/10/03).
The more than 250,000 displaced people, who were settled in camps near Monrovia, and had sought refuge in public buildings in the town in June 2003, have begun to be transferred back to camps outside Monrovia (USAID, 08/10/03). An outbreak of violence in Monrovia at the beginning of October, also touched some of the camps in Monserrado counties, which were looted, and the civilian population harassed (USAID, 08/10/03).
Assessment missions which were carried out in Zwedru (Gran Gedeh county) Voinjama, (Lofa county) and Tubnamburg (Bomi county), revealed dire situations. At the end of September 2003, Zwedru was inhabited by about half of the pre-war population. People barely managed to have one meal per day, harvesting cassava and looking for wild food. Food prices were reported to be extremely high and the purchasing power of the population very low (OCHA, 30/09/03). The town of Voinjama has been completely destroyed; people were mostly relying on wild food (OCHA, 20/10/03).
An outbreak of cholera has occurred in Monrovia since June 2003. A total of 17,561 cases have been reported. The case fatality rate was below 1%. Cholera treatment centres, rehydration corners and chlorination of wells have been implemented. The caseload seems to have begun to decline in Monrovia, but an increase in cholera cases has also occurred in Buchanan (WHO, 30/09/03). A measles vaccination and vitamin A distribution campaign has been carried out in Monrovia, Buchanan, Tubnamburg and Totota (OCHA, 21/10/03). As of mid-October, food had been distributed to about 250,000 IDPs in Monserrado, Totota, Kakata, Salala, Harbel, Buchanan and Bensonville (WFP, 10/10/03).
A rapid nutrition screening (not using a random sampling methodology), carried out in Tubnamburg, Bomi county, in September 2003, showed a high level of malnutrition (WV/ MOH/ UNICEF, 09/03). Among 503 children measured, 22 had oedema (4.1%), 11 (6.5%) had weight for height Z-score below -3, and a total of 83 (16.5%) were acutely malnourished.
Despite the implementation of a peace agreement, the security situation has remained volatile. Access to the population has, however, increased and some assessments have shown that many civilians are facing hard living conditions (category I).
From the assessment in Tubnamburg: