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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 August, 2003, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Aid priorities in Liberia
By James Logan
ActionAid country representative, Liberia

Now that peacekeeping troops are in Liberia and aid agencies are gearing up their operations, the first priority will be the basic human needs: water, food, shelter and clothing.

Food Aid
Hundreds of thousands will need help

Perhaps a million people from all over the country have arrived in Monrovia in recent months and are roaming the city - often in the rain - seeking refuge.

They have very few possessions. Many have already spent months in camps.

It will take the combined efforts of many humanitarian agencies to provide for the basic needs of these people.

ActionAid has made plans to distribute food, cooking utensils and other essential items to 40,000 people.

Safe camps

Now peacekeeping troops have begun patrols, people may feel it is safe to move back from the streets to the camps. But they may find that much has been destroyed there.

Little girl abandoned in a hotel

Humanitarian organisations will be working in the camps to restore water supplies and sanitation, and providing materials for people to build new shelters.

The sooner people can move back to their villages and start rebuilding their lives, the better.

Aid agencies can provide transport, but first the people need to assess the situation and satisfy themselves that it is safe to return.


When they do return, they will need to reconstruct houses, wells and bridges.

Food-for-work schemes are one way in which aid agencies can help people rebuild their communities.

Rice is the staple food of Liberians. People will need seed rice and tools so that they can get a crop into the ground.

Dilapidated schools will need to be repaired, so children can start learning again. But some of the worst scars of conflict are in people's minds.

Baby in Monrovia
Combined efforts needed to provide for the basic needs of Liberians

Where neighbouring villages have lined up with different fighting factions, there is a legacy of distrust, suspicion and fear. The entire psyche of Liberia needs to be healed.

Before the recent fighting, ActionAid was helping communities to recover from Liberia's previous conflict.

We were training ex-combatants to make furniture. We were organising sports and cultural events to bring divided communities together.

Much of what we achieved has been lost, but we and other agencies are ready to begin again.

But first the fighting has to stop and stop for good. The rest of the peacekeepers cannot arrive too soon.

Aid agencies working together in the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) have just launched a major appeal for aid for Liberia

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