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Humanitarian Official Reports On Impact of fighting in Liberia - 2002-07-19

A humanitarian official says the situation in Liberian camps is going worse. Susan Sanders of the Church World Service spoke to English to Africa reporter Winston Monboe in Monrovia after she toured the camps this week.

Ms. Sanders says thousands of Liberians seeking refuge in two of the camps she visited Wednesday are living under difficult conditions. She says people she spoke with say they have no food, clothing and shelter.

She says, “Certainly people told me that they were hungry. And I could see from the distended bellies of the children and the red-tinged to their hair that the children are malnourished and they are hungry too. So that I could see with my own eyes. We met with elderly who were concerned that they were alone and they were not strong enough to go gather sticks and build their own house - and until they have their own house, they can’t get food; they can’t get in the rotation for food. So I’m very concerned about all the people in the camps, but particularly the children and the elderly because they are the most vulnerable”.

Ms. Sanders says she also met hundreds of women who have been sexually and otherwise abused while on their way to the camps.

These women Ms. Sanders says are been catered to by a local humanitarian group, the Concerned Christian Community or the CCC.

She says, “CCC is now working with them on psycho and social counseling so they can begin to know that it was not their fault - what happened to them - and to begin to reclaim their lives through not only telling their story to a counselor and sharing it with other women, but to learn skills - the women are learning to tye-dye, to make soap, to do cosmetology, to learn how to bake bread so that eventually when peace comes to Liberia - as it will come hopefully soon that these women can return to places where they came from and have some skills that they may use to support their families because of course many of them no longer have husbands because of the war”.

According to Ms. Sanders the Church World Service is jointly working with the Liberian Council of Churches to provide assistance to thousands of Liberians.

She says, “We are eager to do whatever we can that the Liberian Council of Churches asks us for assistance. And so after we made all these visits the Liberian Council of Churches will sit down with Church World Service, and together we will discuss what the needs are and what assistance we will give. Of course, we don’t have limitless resources and Church World Service works in 80 countries around the world and so there are many demands on our resources. But we are paying special attention to the Continent of Africa and particularly to the sub-region of the Mano River Union. So it will be a process once again, of negotiating and also advocating. We will go back and talk with the World Food Program and see if they might increase their assistance. We will try and spread the news of the reality of the humanitarian needs here so that others around the international community might be aware”.

Additionally she says the Church World Service delegation currently visiting Liberia has been meeting with government officials and other stakeholders on how peace can return to Liberia and other countries of the West African sub-region.