From: UN New York, June 03 2003 04:00PM
© UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news

Thousands of Liberians have fled a new round of fighting in southern Liberia and arrived in neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire, where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is now working to alleviate the added pressure on local communities already burdened by other refugees and the effects of their own country’s civil conflict.

In the past two days, more than 2,000 Liberians, mostly women and children, have arrived at Tabou in western Côte d'Ivoire, paddling canoes 200 metres across the roaring Cavaly River, UNHCR said.

The frightened refugees are arriving mainly at the Yeoli and Nero entry points, bringing stories of heavy fighting between the Liberian Government and rebel forces battling to control the region, despite the torrential rainy season downpours hampering travel in the area.

“We’re in a race against the weather and the poor health condition of the new arrivals,” said UNHCR’s acting representative in Abidjan, Panos Moumtzis. “We’re very worried about the children should diarrhoeal outbreaks become widespread.”

The newly arrived Liberians further strain the infrastructure in Tabou, which receives only an hour of electricity daily and suffers a serious shortage of clean water, according to UNHCR, which is providing assistance to communities willing to host the refugees.

The agency has dispatched shelter materials to the new arrivals, and re-opened a transit centre intended for 700 people but currently sheltering more than 2,500. UNHCR is also working to identify more villages willing to accept the fleeing Liberians. Few non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are established in the region, complicating the relief operation.

Altogether, an estimated 15,000 Liberians have arrived in the Tabou area in the last 10 to 15 days more than the 12,000 Ivorians who populate the town.

added by: Robert W. Kranz  June-2003