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Hungry Liberians Flee Countryside Amid Reports of Renewed Fighting

Thousands of starving Liberians living in the countryside are on the move toward the capital, Monrovia, bringing with them reports of continued fighting.

Liberian families, thin with hunger, say they are fleeing renewed fighting in the countryside. Meanwhile, aid workers are reporting large numbers of severely malnourished children, many of whom are dying on the roads.

For these thousands, the only escape is to walk to the relative calm of the capital or one of the temporary camps. Conditions for those seeking refuge at the camps or in Monrovia are, at best poor, at worst unsanitary. Cholera is an underestimated problem in the capital, according to aid workers.

Liberian women demonstrated on the streets of Monrovia, calling for the West Africa peacekeeping force now in Monrovia to deploy across the countryside quickly.

Wearing white T-shirts in a symbol of peace, they called on the peacekeepers to exercise greater urgency in bringing peace to the lawless countryside.

Peacekeepers began arriving in Liberia at the beginning of the month, but have yet to deploy outside of Monrovia. They say they are awaiting the arrival of more troops from Ghana, Mali, and Senegal.

These troops have been expected for more than a week, and there has been no explanation as to why their arrival has been delayed.

While they wait, reports of fighting, looting, and massacre continue to emerge from the Liberian hinterland.

Until the security situation improves, there is no way for independent observers or aid personnel to travel to these areas to substantiate such reports, or to assess the humanitarian crisis that aid workers will have to deal with.