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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 12:47 GMT
UN appeals for Liberia aid
Thousands of refugees have fled a recent upsurge in fighting
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By Mark Doyle
BBC West Africa correspondent
The international community should put aside any differences it has with the government of Liberia to come to the assistance of some 60,000 people caught in the military unrest in that country, a senior United Nations official has said.

Liberian Government officials are under targeted UN sanctions because of what the security council says is "their involvement in gun running and diamond smuggling".

Ross Mountain, from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, was speaking in Abidjan, after visiting Liberia, where some aid workers say privately that the humanitarian crisis is caused at least as much by government soldiers as by the rebels attacking them.

There is, undoubtedly, a humanitarian crisis in Liberia.


A week ago, on the road towards the capital Monrovia, I met Cecilia, a young mother caring for two pretty toddlers while heavily pregnant with a third.

President of Liberia Charles Taylor
Mr Taylor is under UN sanctions

She had fled from one refugee camp to another, escaping the men with guns.

The day after I met Cecilia, her third child was stillborn - no doubt, from the trauma of its mother being a refugee.

Mr Mountain gives a wider picture for the thousands of displaced Liberians:

"These are people who have not just been displaced once, but they've been displaced multiple times, and they were reduced to, on the one hand, having to carry their worldly goods on their head, and on the other hand, looking for their family... many of whom have lost track of wives, children, and so on.

The Liberian Government stands accused by the United Nations of fomenting unrest in neighbouring states, and previous UN appeals for money to help the war displaced have consequently fallen on deaf ears.

Some aid workers in Liberia say government soldiers are at least as bad as the rebels when it comes to mistreating civilians.

But the aid workers, not to mention the people themselves, are in a typical humanitarian dilemma - condemnation of the Liberian Government won't fill hungry mouths.

How can the problems be solved?
See also:

12 Feb 01 | Africa
Timeline: Liberia
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Liberia
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