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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 September, 2003, 10:34 GMT 11:34 UK
Liberians in fear of food raids

By Mark Doyle
BBC world affairs correspondent

Looting from war-displaced people in Liberia by government and rebel militias has become so widespread that some hungry civilians have begun pleading with aid agencies not to give them stockpiles of food for fear that it will attract attacks.

Displaced people flee Totota in central Liberia
Aid workers want security reinforced in camps

Looting has always been a key element in wars here and it gets worse at this time of the year, known as the hungry season, when new crops should be planted.

Because of the war, farmers have fled to camps for displaced people.

There, they are dependant on handouts, but even so some of them, known in the aid workers jargon as 'internally displaced people' or IDPs, have asked for the stockpiling of food to stop.

"Some of the IDPs in camps near these areas say please don't give us food, please don't give us blankets, because we are scared that if you do that the fighters will come along and use that as a pretext to take them from us," says Ross Mountain, the UN aid coordinator for Liberia.

Solution

Aid workers say the real solution to this dilemma is not of course to stop giving out food, but to provide the security the population needs.

There is a small West African peace-keeping force here of some 3,000 troops.

They have secured Monrovia, but have yet to deploy in any numbers outside the capital.

The UN may be sending some more soldiers towards the end of the year, but in the rural areas meanwhile, in the words of the UN representative to Liberia, Jacques Klein, the looting, raping and killing continues.




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