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UN Launches Campaign to Clean up Monrovia - 2003-09-07

The United Nations is heading a campaign to clean up the filthy streets of Monrovia, the once-tidy capital of Liberia. The U.N. Children's Fund says it is enlisting an army of children volunteers for the task.

UNICEF says the streets of Monrovia are all but buried under garbage. The country was plunged into civil war in 1989, and since 1996 the city has had only occasional refuse collections. In March of this year, garbage collection collapsed completely.

UNICEF spokesman Damien Personnaz says the filthy city is unpleasant and unhealthy. He says UNICEF and its partners are organizing a clean-up campaign to make life more bearable for the residents of Monrovia.

The UNICEF campaign will use children who volunteer to pick up the garbage, which will keep them occupied and also teach them about the importance of maintaining cleanliness. "We do hope this will give the population of Monrovia a very small starting point in which they can hope that the peace has basically come back to their city," said Mr. Personnaz.

The World Health Organization is also participating in the cleanup campaign. It says Monrovia is facing a serious outbreak of cholera. It also is overwhelmed by cases of malaria, diarrhea, skin infections due to poor hygiene, and acute respiratory infections.

WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib says a bad situation is made worse by dead bodies floating in the city's water wells. "It seems that it is very expensive for families to bury member of their families or their friends," she explained. "Or even they are displaced people so they are without their family. It could cost $10 to bury a dead person. So they just drop the body in the streets or in the wells."

Ms. Chaib says WHO, UNICEF and other health partners are chlorinating Monrovia's 5,000 wells to reduce the risk of further outbreaks of water-borne diseases. She says the wells will be re-chlorinated every four days to guarantee that the water remains clean.