7 August 2003


NEW YORK, 6 August (UN Headquarters) -- United Nations humanitarian agencies requested $69 million in emergency assistance for Liberia this morning at Headquarters, with Secretary-General Kofi Annan saying, “The logic of this emergency appeal is simple:  without urgent action more lives will be lost.”

In a message read out by his Special Representative, Jacques Klein, the Secretary-General urged the international community to “to seize the opportunity to alleviate unnecessary suffering, to avert preventable deaths, and to let Liberians know they are not alone in their quest for development and peace.”  It was a “decisive moment” for the people of Liberia, whose prolonged hostilities and misrule had kept their country on a ruinous path of death, destruction and deferred development, and he called on the parties to the conflict to cease hostilities immediately and allow humanitarian aid to reach the people who so desperately needed it (for full text of the message, see Press Release SG/SM/8813 issued today).

The Revised Humanitarian Appeal seeks to fully fund agency activities in the country through the end of this year, seeking to reach 1 million Liberians in greatest need, and lays out a plan to reduce malnutrition, restore supplies of clean water, provide basic shelter and health care, stem the spread of lethal diseases such as cholera, and protect fundamental human rights.  It provides for additional needs caused by recent hostilities, as well as outstanding requirements of the original Appeal launched in November 2002.  With the exception of food aid, less than 22 per cent of the original has been received.

Carolyn McAskie, the Deputy to the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the deployment of humanitarian assistance had began as of today, involving both United Nations system agencies, as well as other government and non-government humanitarian players.  They included the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), representatives of the United States Government, the Committee of the International Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and others.  Detailing the needs and urgency of the of the Appeal, she said, in view of the seriousness of the prevailing situation, it was particularly critical that the international community respond as urgently as they had done in Iraq, where $2 billion was raised, of which $1 billion came from governments represented.  “Can we also raise a modest $69 million for Liberia?” she asked.


Speaking in his own capacity, Mr. Klein said Liberia was a country with strong historical ties to the United States, as well as a founding father of the United Nations.  The humanitarian conditions there were “clearly some of the worst in the world” with more than 450,000 internally displaced persons scattered around the capital, Monrovia, suffering from numerous diseases, such as malaria, due to lack of basic medicines and clean water.  Further, politically, Liberia was a key to the survival and stability in the rest of West Africa.  Much of the good already done there risked coming to nothing if appeals to assist Liberia were not answered.

According to the executive summary of the Appeal, the plan of action is divided into three operational phases, each of which is closely tied to the prevailing security situation.  The first phase covers limited activities that can be attempted during the current insecure environment.  The second and third phases assume an improving security environment, in which the scope and scale of assistance will be increased, initially for Monrovia and then outward into the rest of Liberia.  Although the projects in the original Appeal remain valid, new projects, including water trucking, health promotion and the reintegration of former child combatants, have been added to respond to the increased humanitarian needs.

The escalation of armed hostilities in June has triggered phenomenal population displacements into Monrovia and its suburbs, the text of the Appeal notes.  Prior to the escalation of hostilities in Liberia, there were some 250,000 internally displaced persons, 15,000 Sierra Leonean refugees and about 10,500 third country nationals dispersed in Monrovia and surrounding counties.  It is estimated that the number has now increased to more than 450,000.

“Liberia’s civil war has degenerated into a human catastrophe of horrific proportions”, the revised Appeal states.  The situation can be described as a total breakdown in law and order, indiscriminate shelling of crowded urban areas, gross human rights abuses, rape, forced conscription of children, abductions and killings.  Severe shortages of food, water, medicine, sanitation and shelter persist and communicable diseases, such as cholera, are increasing.

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