Liberia/Sierra Leone Region (September 1995)
by Humanitarian Practice Network September 1995

On 18 August, a meeting of ECOWAS (Economic Organisation of West African States) was held in Abuja, Nigeria to discuss the Liberia peace process.

In compliance with the agreement then reached, a cease-fire came into effect on 26 August and by the end of the first week in September, was reported to be holding. On 1 September, a six man Liberian Council of State was installed and appears to be taking charge and an atmosphere of optimism seems to be growing.

However, the overall situation remains very poor. Much territory remains inaccessible to relief activities due to continued insecurity and skirmishes, with particularly tense rebel activity in Sierra Leone where food distributions have been severely hampered as a result.

Estimates of the number of displaced in the country vary from 730,000 to over 1 million people, with the number of people in need of humanitarian aid in the region having increased to 3.4 million:

  • Liberia: 1.9m
  • Sierra Leone: 500,000
  • Côte d’Ivoire: 234,000
  • Guinea: 603,000

While western and northern parts of Sierra Leone are relatively stable, in southern and eastern parts, sporadic attacks on civilians and direct threats against convoys, issued by the RUF leader on 5 September, escalate. It is in the eastern part of the country that the overall situation of affected populations is particularly bad with levels of malnutrition alarmingly high. There have been reports of massive deaths by starvation, although these are as yet unsubstantiated.

At the end of August, an inter-agency mission to Kenema Daru and Segbwema carried out an assessment of the food situation where high levels of malnutrition have been detected. The malnutrition recorded is mostly a result of the unavailability of food in the Bo, Kenema – where private transporters have refused to go – Segbwema and Daru areas. Therapeutic feeding centres have been set up in Kenema Town and MSF-Holland has flown in a consignment of milk, sugar and medicine to be airlifted to Kenema from Freetown.

Economic Community of West Africa Cease-fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) is making progress in Liberia, taking control of the two main highways leading to Bomi and Cape Mount in the spring which greatly improved access to populations in the western parts of the country. However, although safety has improved in towns along the highway, in outlying areas there are still reports of clashes between the two ULIMO (United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia) factions looting and committing atrocities against the civilian population. In the Upper Porpka district, the food situation is reported to be desperate. Despite ECOMOG progress, their strength has been weakened since the Tanzania contingent started to leave in the summer. At the ECOWAS summit, the UN agreed to extend the UNOMIL (United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia) mandate until 15 September, but no further unless progress is made towards implementing the Akosombo and Accra Peace Agreements.

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